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Home-grown dope? Province says nope: Manitoba unveils new cannabis act

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/12/2017 (944 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitobans will be prohibited from growing marijuana for recreational purposes at home after cannabis is legalized in 2018, should the provincial government's new Safe and Responsible Retailing of Cannabis Act become law.

The bill was introduced by Justice Minister Heather Stefanson in the provincial legislative assembly Tuesday.

Justice Minister Heather Stefanson in question period in the Manitoba Legislature Tuesday regarding retailing of cannabis act. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg free Press)</p>

Justice Minister Heather Stefanson in question period in the Manitoba Legislature Tuesday regarding retailing of cannabis act. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg free Press)

Although the federal Cannabis Act will allow Canadian adults to grow up to four cannabis plants at their home, Stefanson said her government was banning the practice, primarily for two reasons.

"This approach is consistent with our commitment to protect youth, and also responds directly to concerns that homegrown cannabis may be diverted to the black market," she told reporters Tuesday.

Stefanson also ascribed the decision to "a tremendous amount of respect for law enforcement."

"I think it's difficult when they go into a home and start to look at whether it's four or six plants or 10 plants. I think that's a very difficult thing to be enforcing out there," she said.

Robb Inniss, who plans to open a hydroponic growing supply store in Selkirk next year, said Tuesday's news left him "absolutely flabbergasted."

"The black market will probably continue to thrive, just because we are such a prime agricultural area," said Inniss. "Whether it's organized crime or whether it's just private, personal growers, this won't solve the problem."

The ban on home cannabis growing in Manitoba will not affect medical cannabis users who are licensed to grow their own by the federal government. Inniss said that should allow him to forge ahead with opening his hydroponics store in the Interlake region.

"The amount of licensed personal growers (for medical purposes), as well as the organic vegetable industry, should be enough to sustain us," he said.

Scott Bernstein, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, took issue with Stefanson's claim banning home growing will prevent cannabis from reaching youth or the black market.

"Four plants is not very much cannabis," he said. "That might supply a couple people, it's not going to supply an entire dispensary."

Preventing home growing, Bernstein said, will primarily affect two types of people: cannabis users who want to control exactly what goes into their crop, and those without the financial means to purchase cannabis at retail prices.

Local cannabis advocate Steven Stairs told reporters he was "extremely disappointed" by the government's decision to prevent Manitobans from growing their own cannabis.

"A medical patient can grow 50 plants in their basement with a disability, but an able-bodied person can't grow four plants safely? I think that's nonsense."

The decision to disallow home growing is good news for Manitoba's real estate industry, said Lorne Weiss, chairman of the Manitoba Real Estate Association's political action committee.

"Homegrown marijuana plants have never been allowed before, they've been illegal, other than for medical reasons, and we'd like that to continue," said Weiss.

"From our members' perspective, it's a good move to ensure our clients that they are buying what they think they're buying -- which is a home that has not been used for the growing of cannabis."

The Safe and Responsible Retailing of Cannabis Act will also create new provincial offences for selling cannabis without a licence or purchasing from an unlicensed retailer, giving cannabis to a person younger than 19, buying cannabis using a fake ID or giving a fake ID to an underage person to purchase cannabis, and providing cannabis to an intoxicated person.

The new offences will be backed by penalties stricter than those under Manitoba's current Liquor and Gaming Control Act, which the new bill will amend.

For individuals, punishments could include fines of up to $100,000 and a year in prison, while corporations would face fines of up to $500,000. Minor offences would be penalized using tickets similar to those for provincial liquor offences, according to civil servants who briefed journalists on the details of the bill.

The bill will give regulatory power over cannabis to the Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba, which will be renamed the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba. The LGCA will be responsible for licensing cannabis stores in Manitoba, both retail and online.

The Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corp. will be responsible for overseeing distribution of cannabis produced by federally licensed companies, and all provincial retailers will be required to source product from MLL.

Two categories of retail store will be permitted: the first will restrict entrance to stores to those of legal age, while the second will allow full public access but keep products hidden behind the counter. Combining cannabis sales with alcohol sales at the same location will be prohibited, the civil servants said.

Manitoba municipalities will be allowed to hold plebiscites to ban retail marijuana stores in their communities.

solomon.israel@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sol_israel

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History

Updated on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 7:30 PM CST: Full write through

December 6, 2017 at 11:15 AM: Cutline fixed.

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