Manitoba man taking province, attorney general to court over ban on growing pot at home
There is a precedent: Quebec's ban was ruled unconstitutional on Sept. 3, 2019
One man is aiming to make it legal for all Manitobans to grow weed at home.
Jesse Lavoie filed a notice of application on Wednesday against the Manitoba government and the attorney general to strike down a section of the province's Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act that bans home growth operations.
"I've always wanted to grow my own cannabis plant. I don't drink alcohol or use tobacco, so this is the only thing I use," said Lavoie.
"[I'm challenging the government] really to grow at home and cut down on my personal consumption costs — and I want every Manitoban to have that right."
The case looks specifically at Section 101.15 of the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act, amended in October 2018 to include cannabis, which states that a person must not cultivate the drug at their residence.
It also now states that a person cannot possess a total of 30 grams of weed in public, nor can a person possess cannabis that is not packaged, labelled and stamped in accordance with federal requirements, "unless permitted by regulation."
The penalty for breaking Section 101.15 of the legislation is a fine of $2,542.
The provincial legislation stands in contrast to Section 12 of the federal Cannabis Act, which states that up to four marijuana plants can be grown at a residence at one time.
"The pith and substance of the prohibition is to restrict access to cannabis in Manitoba and to establish an absolute criminal ban on residential cultivation of cannabis in Manitoba," the court document says.
"The purpose of the prohibition is to establish an absolute ban of a practice on the bases of moral values and social acceptability, and to replace, stiffen and strengthen the criminal law."
Because the ban is related to criminal law, the Manitoba government overstepped its authority because only the federal government has authority of criminal law, the court document says.
The section should also be stricken from the provincial legislation because it contradicts the federal rules, it adds.
There is precedent for the case. Quebec and Manitoba were the only two provinces to ban growing recreational cannabis at home until Sept. 3, 2019, when Quebec Superior Court Justice Manon Lavoie ruled that the ban was unconstitutional.
Homegrown cannabis makes cents
Lavoie consumes between one and two grams of marijuana per day, and the strain he likes costs $15 per gram at the recreational pot shop, he said.
But were he allowed to grow four marijuana plants at home, they could produce 400 grams every four months, assuming the plants were grown properly, Lavoie said.
"When you times 400 by the $15 per gram that I'm spending, that's impacting me financially massively," he said.
Cannabis can be stored from six to 12 months, so Lavoie could make the homegrown supply last most of the year, he said.
"That's affecting me. I'm sure it's affecting a lot of people financially, for those who want to try to grow. And in times of [COVID-19] when everyone's stuck at home and money is tight for a lot of people, it just makes sense," Lavoie said.
Despite marijuana being legal in Canada, the black market is still thriving, and many people are buying their pot online for four to five dollars per gram, said Lavoie, who has worked in the cannabis industry for three years.
"That's missed tax dollars in general for the government of Manitoba," he said. "But if they legalize growing at home, they can tax seeds, reoccurring. They can tax grow equipment, lights, dehumidifiers. People have more money to spend on cannabis accessories like vaporizers, water pipes.
"I don't see it as keeping the black market away. I see it as letting the legal market flourish in just another avenue."
Ultimately, Lavoie sees homegrown weed as a potential hobby for the public, similar to making beer or wine at home, he said.
Lavoie hired two lawyers from MLT Aikins, a Winnipeg firm, to take on the case. They will have to file an affidavit prior to a hearing scheduled on Sept. 28 in order to move the case forward.
Lavoie launched a GoFundMe campaign to help cover his legal fees. His goal is to reach $80,000 so he can afford to take the case to the Supreme Court, should the need arise.
Any unused funds will go directly to Winnipeg Harvest, Habitat for Humanity and the Manitoba Metis Heritage Fund.
Lavoie hopes the province will respond quickly to his case, so Manitobans won't lose more time on a potential harvesting.