Patients can now grow a “limited amount” of cannabis for medicinal purposes at home in Canada under new laws. The change came about after the Federal Court deemed the old rules unconstitutional.
It’s all go north of the border. Expanded rules, due to come into effect later this month (August 24th), have granted Canadian medical marijuana patients the right to grow their own cannabis at home or have someone else grow it on their behalf.
Those approved to use medical marijuana to relieve symptoms or manage chronic pain will be able to register with Health Canada to produce what has been termed a “limited amount” of homegrown cannabis for their own personal medical use.
The Three Available Options
If you are an approved patient and wish to procure medical marijuana in Canada, you are now faced with three options.
First, you can of course now grow it yourself at home. If you wish to get your fingers green and produce some homegrown cannabis, you must submit an application to register with Health Canada along with a medical document from your healthcare practitioner. Your application must clearly state the location where the plant will be produced and stored.
If you are not healthy enough to cultivate your own cannabis plant, you can delegate the task to someone else. This person must pass a background check to prove that they haven’t been convicted of a drug offense in the last ten years and that they aren’t growing plants for more than two people, themselves included.
Your third and final option is to purchase the cannabis from one of the 34 approved producers regulated by Health Canada. This is still the only legal source under the current laws.
If you do apply to grow medical marijuana outdoors, you won’t be able to grow it next to a school, public playground, or other public place frequented by children.
Part of Your Daily Amount
Officials from Health Canada outlined in a technical briefing on Thursday afternoon their understanding of how the law will operate. Put simply, the “limited amount” of homegrown cannabis will be linked to the daily amount prescribed to the patient.
In theory, this means that, if you have been prescribed one gram per day, you could grow two plants outdoors or five plants indoors to provide yourself with enough yield to meet your prescription (plants grown outdoors yield more than those grown indoors).
In order to grow your own, you would need to source seeds and plants from licensed producers. These producers could also sell an interim supply of cannabis as you await your homegrown plants to sprout into life.
Allard et al. vs. Canada
The framework of medical marijuana in Canada (Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations) is being dismantled and rebuilt as Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations in response to the Federal Court’s ruling in the Allard et al. vs. Canada case.
Judge Michael Phelan deemed the former Conservative government’s 2013 law – which required medical marijuana patients to source their cannabis from licensed producers in lieu of growing their own – as unconstitutional.
He went on to say that the rules only served to limit a patient to a single government-approved contractor, therefore eliminating their ability to grow their own marijuana or choose their own supplier, which, in turn, restricted the patient’s liberties under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
With that, he gave the federal government six months to devise and implement new rules.
Under his ruling, Judge Phelan also stated that the circa 28,000 patients who had been allowed to continue producing homegrown cannabis under a 2014 injunction could continue to do so as they await the enforcement of the new rules.
The Response to the Ruling
A number of special interest groups in Canada were quick to respond to the news of the government’s policy fix.
The Canadian Pharmacists Association was reportedly encouraged by the news that the government will look into the idea of bringing pharmacies into the fold while the Canopy Growth Corporation – a parent company of medical marijuana licensed producers – welcomed the news as an expansion to consumer choice.
They went on to say that one of their subsidiaries, a company called Tweed, will start to rent out both space and supplies to approved patients to allow them to grow their own cannabis.
Meanwhile, stores selling marijuana remain illegal under the new regulations with police in Toronto cracking down on dispensaries over the summer. A spokesperson for the Toronto Dispensaries Coalition said that they were disappointed that the new regulations did not include them and that dispensaries are crucially important to patients who might otherwise struggle to obtain medical marijuana.
And patients group Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana concluded that this new policy is a step in the right direction but also suggested that the government could be doing more to cover the costs of medical marijuana for those who need it most.
How to Grow Your Own
Now that you can, how exactly do you go about producing homegrown cannabis?
Well, it’s actually not all that difficult. It’s typically a plant that grows quite easily, but due to the fact that it is a flowering plant – which means it bears its fruits only once a year – the amount of light it is exposed to must be carefully controlled when growing it indoors.
You must therefore be careful not to induce flowering too early or else you’ll run the risk of harvesting a disappointing crop from an immature plant.
Rather, you should keep the plant in a vegetative state for between 4 and 6 weeks before inducing the flowering stage. During this period, the plant should be exposed to between 16 and 20 hours of light per day, which means using a lamp instead of relying on sunlight.
Once you’re satisfied that the plant has developed enough to begin producing flowers, you can reduce the light cycle to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark per day. It’s recommended that you still use the lamp for the 12 hours of light as the plant will require a strong light source in order to generate the necessary energy to produce the flowers.
During the dark cycle, you must ensure no light gets in. Even the smallest leak of light can interrupt the plant’s flowering process and, subsequently, weaken the yield.
If you follow that relatively basic process, you should be well on your way to producing a good amount of homegrown cannabis. Just make sure you have the proper documentation in place before you do so!
What do you think of Canada’s new policy? Do you believe this is a step in the right direction for patients? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.