Manitoba government won't budge on homegrown bud ban after feds reject Senate recommendation

The Manitoba government is holding firm on its refusal to allow people to grow their own marijuana when it becomes legal, despite the federal government saying homegrowing should be allowed.

Senate recommended allowing provinces to decide whether to allow cannabis growing at home

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said banning homegrown pot will make enforcement easier and keep cannabis out of the hands of young people. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The Manitoba government is holding firm on its refusal to allow people to grow their own marijuana when it becomes legal, despite the federal government saying homegrowing should be allowed.

The province maintains that regulations for growing cannabis at home fall within its jurisdiction.

The province, a spokesperson for Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said in an email to CBC News, has authority over "setting additional regulatory requirements to address issues of local concern. For example, provinces and territories could set a higher minimum age or more restrictive limits on possession or personal cultivation, including lowering the number of plants or restricting where it may be cultivated."

Premier Brian Pallister said banning home cultivation of pot will cut out more of the black market and better protect children.

"If we're going to make errors, lets err on the side of safety. Let's make sure that we're doing everything we can to protect people who choose to use the product, but also protect those who do not," he said in an interview on CBC's Power and Politics.

Last week, the Senate proposed 46 amendments to Bill C-45, the federal Cannabis Act. It recommended the provinces be allowed to decide for themselves whether to let people grow up to four plants in their homes — the maximum allowed in the act.

Manitoba, Quebec and Nunavut want to ban that.

But the federal government intends to reject several of the Senate's recommended changes, including the one about allowing the provinces to ban growing at home.

On Wednesday, federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor pointed to other controlled substances that can be made or grown at home.

"Canadians are allowed to make beer at home or wine, and some can even grow tobacco," she said.

Although Pallister said his government's position might "evolve over time," for now, he wants to be more cautious.

"People will say, 'Look, I have a friend who makes beer in his basement.' Cool, great, good. Go for it. Beer and wine have been legally for consumed in our country for decades and decades. This is a brand new product," he said.

Provincial offence with fine

Pallister said he doesn't buy the argument some people have made that allowing people to grow at home will expedite the transition from the black market to the legal market, saying Manitoba already has "the cheapest pot in the country."

"It's actually just going to add, potentially, to the erosion of the efficacy of distributing legal pot, which is going to be safer," he said.

In March, while appearing before a Senate committee, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the federal government wouldn't stop provinces from banning homegrown pot — but if a citizen decided to take the province or territory to court over the issue, the feds wouldn't be silent.

"This is federal legislation and we fundamentally support our legislation and it would be incumbent upon us to defend it," she told the committee.

When asked what would happen if the province ends up in court because the federal legislation and Manitoba's conflict with each other, Pallister said "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

For now, "possessing four plants or less will be a provincial offence with a fine, it will be not be a criminal offence. The federal government has sole jurisdiction over the Criminal Code," said Stefanson's spokesperson.

The Senate could still further delay the Liberal government's plans for legalization, setting the stage for a possible legislative showdown.

The House still has to debate and vote on the plan in the coming days. Then C-45 will return to the Senate, where senators will have to decide whether to give up their fight to make these changes.

Federal officials say after the bill gets through Parliament, there will still be a period of eight to 12 weeks to give provinces time to prepare for the actual sale of recreational marijuana.

With files from Power and Politics, Catherine Cullen


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