The Senate recently rejected an attempt to ban everyone in Canada from growing a few cannabis plants at home when the country legalizes recreational cannabis next month. On Thursday, Conservative Senator, Vern White, proposed an amendment to Bill C-45. It would have prohibited cultivation at home completely for everyone across the country.
Luckily, for Canadians, the amendment fell by an overwhelming 40-33 majority vote. Claude Carignan, another Conservative senator, then introduced an amendment to limit home cultivation to inside a property, prohibiting Canadians from having any marijuana plants growing in their yards. Fortunately, the Senate rejected that too, by an even larger vote margin of 40-31. For now, Canadians appear safe.
Voting as a block, the Conservatives favored both amendments. However, they failed to persuade enough independent senators, who now form the largest faction within the Senate, to back them. They only managed to convince a handful of them to vote in their favor, but it was not sufficient to pass the proposals into law.
By the time these amendments came into question, Senators had already approved 40 proposals introduced earlier this week by the Senate’s own social affairs committee. One of these amendments would allow territories and provinces to decide for themselves whether they want to prohibit home cultivation, as Manitoba and Quebec plans to do, or if they would allow it their residents to grow it.
It would also authorize provinces and territories to choose if they want to limit the number of plants allowed on a single property. In the bill’s original draft, the number of permissible plants is set at four per dwelling. Several senators agreed that they share some of White’s worry that homegrown marijuana could potentially make pot easily accessible to children.
They also shared White’s concerns that home cultivation could lead to excessive humidity and mold, which could cause environmental health issues and neighborly disputes in multiple-unit residences. However, they made it clear that allowing provinces and territories to decide on their own to ban home cultivation or not is a fair compromise.
Senator Andre Pratte worded it this way, “I think in the end it is a Canadian compromise.” He also argued that permitting some cultivation at home forms the crux of social equity, noting that homegrown cannabis may just be the only choice available to Canadians with limited incomes or those living in extreme or remote areas.
White’s concerns are valid, however. He cited research that indicates a higher likelihood of children unwittingly consuming marijuana if their parents grow it at home. He claimed a British Columbia study found the number of calls to poison control centers regarding child cannabis consumption doubling between 2013 and 2016.
Additionally, White maintained that a single, mature cannabis plant produces the same quantity of moisture as five to seven average-sized houseplants. The associated increase in mold and humidity could result in severe health problems, as well as cause severe structural damage to multiple-unit dwellings worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Other Conservative senators echoed these sentiments, and they pointed out that authorities would not be able to police the four-plant limit either, calling it outright unenforceable. However, Senator Art Eggleton, a Liberal independent and chair of the social affairs committee, which scrutinized every clause in the bill, implied that the Conservatives were cherry-picking witness testimonies.
Eggleton suggested the goal of this was to “fear-monger” about home growing and its potential impact. He noted that other experts told the committee outright that concerns over mold and humidity applied only to illegal, large operations, which, under the bill, would still be illegal. Eggleton even quoted one of them, citing that “having a shower without the fan on” would produce more humidity than four plants.
“So I do not think we can fear-monger based on some of the horror stories around illicit grow-ops,” Eggleton insisted. He also reminded the committee that they had heard experts say clearly that accidentally nibbling on a marijuana leaf would not make children stoned because, to activate THC, the psychoactive ingredient, one has to heat it first.
Senator Dennis Patterson, Conservative and former premier of the Northwest Territories argued that permitting homegrown cannabis would influence impressionable children to use it, as it “makes it look normal and okay.” He also countered that potential health impacts would hit Indigenous communities the worst, where severe overcrowding, lack of ventilation, and high rates of respiratory issues prevail.
However, Senator Mary Jane McCallum, an independent Cree from Manitoba, argued that prohibiting home growing would exacerbate already over-represented First Nations youths in the criminal justice system, most of whom are using marijuana already. “Prohibiting alcohol never, ever worked in First Nations communities,” she stated, while acknowledging her own back and forth sway on legalization.
“If they do not have marijuana, they go to alcohol,” McCallum said, explaining what happens with Indigenous youth. “And alcohol and smoking are more dangerous than marijuana at this point.” Science certainly agrees by supporting the obvious fact that cannabis has more medicinal value than most medicines prescribed today, with no damaging side effects and no risk of fatal overdose.