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.
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.
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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.
Growing your own
If it were legal to grow your own marijuana at home, what would be involved? The Winnipeg Free Press’ new cannabis website The Leaf talked to a legal grower about what Canadians should expect to spend in time and money if they want to grow high-quality marijuana in their own home. Read the story on The Leaf.
As first reported in the Free Press, the Safe and Responsible Retailing of Cannabis Act will set the minimum age to buy and possess cannabis in Manitoba at 19, one year higher than the legal age requirement for purchasing alcohol.
Tuesday's announcement means Manitoba is set to be the only province where the legal ages to use alcohol and cannabis don't match.
Zach Walsh, a native Winnipegger who studies cannabis as a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, said the age differential in Manitoba "seems a little incongruous."
"My concern would be that it incentivizes alcohol use... compared to cannabis use. If it does that, it might reduce some of the benefits that we could see from cannabis substituting for alcohol," he said.
"The evidence from states that have legalized medical cannabis suggest that there's fewer road accidents, and that's most likely attributable to people substituting cannabis for alcohol," Walsh added.
Rebecca Haines-Saah, an assistant professor of community health sciences with the University of Calgary who has studied cannabis use in youth, said the age gap makes Manitoba "an interesting exception" in Canadian drug policy.
"We've made the argument time and and time again that binge drinking and alcohol misuse also have potential harms to the developing brain and beyond," she said. "Alcohol is not safe at 18. It's a gap in public messaging."
Haines-Saah expressed concern setting a higher legal age to use cannabis could actually backfire by preventing youth from accessing a safe supply.
"I would rather see an 18-year-old purchasing cannabis from an authorized outlet where they can hopefully know the THC content, they would be assured that there's no mould or pesticides, and they could potentially, depending on what the province has put in place for retail, have an informed conversation with the people working in the retail outlet about what they're buying and how to use it," she said.
"But the idea that we protect children all the time — I understand people have legitimate concerns, but kids are already using. They're already going to access cannabis, so I feel like that rationale gets twisted a bit and misinterpreted.”
Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and British Columbia have also chosen 19 as the age of majority for marijuana, while Quebec and Alberta have chosen 18.
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Updated on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 7:30 PM CST: Full write through