Canadians who use cannabis for medical purposes will soon be able to grow their own weed under new rules outlined by the federal government on Thursday. But a licensed producer based in Smiths Falls, Ont., isn't worried about having to fend off competition from medical marijuana users intent on producing their own plants.
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"People could decide to grow their own," said Bruce Linton, founder and CEO of Tweed. "But they prefer to buy from a lawful, properly produced, safe supplier."
Under existing rules patients who use medical marijuana are required by law to buy their weed from one of 34 licensed producers across the country. Health Canada announced in a statement that the new access to cannabis for medical purposes regulations will allow Canadians to produce "a limited amount of cannabis... or designate someone to produce it for them."
The new rules are a response to a federal court ruling that struck down the regulations restricting the rights of medical marijuana patients to grow their own cannabis. The Allard v. Canada decision gave the government six months to amend regulations for medical marijuana. The new rules come into effect on Aug. 24.
The amount that can be grown will depend on a patient's prescription. A patient with permission from a doctor to ingest one gram of medical marijuana a day will be allowed to grow two plants outdoors, or five plants indoors.
Cannabis 'not a geranium'
Linton says there were good reasons the old rules were put into place, and the risks of growing at home still exist.
"The police chiefs, fire chiefs, municipal officials found there were frequent fires, electrical shock dangers. It caused mould, mildews. It caused access to kids, and if you got really good and grew a lot of it you became a great target to steal from," he told CBC News.
"Growing your own isn't... putting in a terrific patch of geraniums. This is not a geranium."
One of Tweed's customers might be willing to give the new regualtions a try.
Mandy McKnight's son Liam uses a cannabis oil to help control his epileptic seizures. She says his medicine costs more than $600 a month.
"It's beyond affordable to be able to maintain buying Liam's meds from a licensed producer," McKnight said. Although she has no plans to start growing her own immediately, she welcomes the government's decision.
Safety concerns remain
Health Canada says it remains concerned about the health and safety risks of home growing operations and that Canadians exercising the option to grow at home should follow guidelines.
"They're expected to comply with municipal bylaws that touch on electrical and fire safety," said Jacqueline Bogden, assistant deputy minister of Health Canada's cannabis legalization and regulation branch.
Linton says Tweed intends to offer a service to those users who worry about the safety aspects, or even the smell, of growing at marijuana at home. In certain municipalities, Tweed will rent a designated small space and do the growing for them.
"What Tweed will bring is the soil, the seeds, the fertilizers, the methodologies," Linton said.
But another Ottawa-area man who uses medical cannabis to control his severe anxiety is concerned that the new rules only allow users to grow plants from seeds and plants from licensed producers like Tweed.
"They're grown in a very detailed environment where there is temperature control, humidity control," said Alex Newcombe. "These are very, very non-resistant strains that they're using. So you're typical growers at home will find it very difficult to maintain any level of quality crop."
"We want our local growers... all the people who are putting the love and caring into their plants instead of these big industrial grows."
The new regulations do not change other laws that make it illegal for Canadians to use marijuana recreationally.
Dispensaries and compassion clubs are also not authorized to sell marijuana and remain illegal under the new laws.