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This article was published 27/8/2020 (329 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Manitoba man plans a constitutional challenge that says the province needs to catch up with the rest of Canada and legalize at-home cannabis production.
Jesse Lavoie, who works within the cannabis industry through the Ontario-based company Canopy Growth, said he was annoyed at first by the decision from the province to override the federal ruling that allows four cannabis plants to be grown at home, but was inspired to attempt the legal challenge after Quebec’s similar ban on at-home growing was overturned in 2019.
"I personally want to grow for my own enjoyment and for the financial benefits to it, and for all Manitobans," he said.
The notice of application, which was filed Wednesday, is directed at the provincial government, the attorney general of Manitoba, the attorney general of Canada and states the provincial prohibition of at-home growing is "inconsistent with and frustrates the purpose of the Cannabis Act."
In June 2018, just under four months after the federal Cannabis Act that allowed at-home growing was enacted, the province amended its specific legislation to ban the practice. At the time, only Quebec and Manitoba had done so, and Manitoba is the last province in Canada where it remains illegal. The pre-set fine amount for growing non-medical cannabis at home is $2,542 – the same as the fine for supplying cannabis to youth under 19.
Manitobans are continuing to buy cannabis through sources outside of provincial regulation because of the price, said Lavoie. Cannabis products sold at government-regulated stores can cost as much as three times of that through other sources, he said.
He said the black market is thriving on money that could be bolstering provincial coffers.
"There’s tons of tax dollars to be made in grow equipment, recurring feed sales, all the accessories that go along with going your own cannabis, and there’s lots of communities and workshops across Canada that are for growing at home," he said. "But Manitoba’s just that one last province that’s not only banning it, but giving us a $2,542 fine."
The benefits to at-home growers go beyond what can be gained by the province and saved by shoppers, Lavoie said. Growing cannabis at home, especially in small amounts, is safer than comparable legal at-home operations such as bottling wine or beer, and it could open doors for people looking to better their health – Lavoie said he used marijuana regularly to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
"To the average person I’d say, if you’re not on board to grow right now, you don’t know if you might become on board later down the road," he said.
The next step for Lavoie is filing an affidavit and appearing in court. He has started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help pay for legal fees, with any unused donations going to charitable organizations in the city. His lawyers are pushing to appear in court by next month, he said.
"My message to the Manitoba government or anyone who wants to stand up against this challenge is let’s make this quick and get Manitobans growing," he said.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.