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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Greenway

Can't get high on your own supply

Pot smokers in the Hills will no longer be able to get high on their own supply after the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Quebec’s ban on homegrown cannabis on April 14.

While growers, smokers and dealers are lamenting the restrictions in the Hills, cops in the province say the rules on homegrown pot in Quebec are aligned with their Access Cannabis program, which aims to combat illegal production and “neighbourhood smuggling.”

“We are pretty much in line with the ban,” said Association des directeurs de police du Québec executive director Didier Deramond. “For the ban, actually, it’s easier for law enforcement to enforce those laws.”

Deramond said one of the biggest police concerns is indoor grow ops, where illegal producers often steal electricity to power their operations. He said illegal grow operations often damage homes, as improper setups can lead to mould and poor air quality for homeowners and renters.

“We’re talking about mould; we’re talking about humidity; destruction of the structure in place; and everything else,” said Deramond. “So there is a lot of damage that could be done, actually, if there was no ban.”

When Canada legalized cannabis in 2018, the feds permitted residents to grow up to four plants at home, but it also gave provinces the power to form their own rules around growing weed. Quebec and Manitoba restricted home growing, but Quebecer Janick Murray-Hall argued the law was unconstitutional and won at Quebec’s superior court. However, on April 14, just six days before pot smokers in the country lit up to celebrate the unofficial cannabis holiday on April 20, Canada’s high court said the law was constitutional. In the ruling, Chief Justice Richard Wagner wrote that Quebec’s ban on homegrown plants is “a means of steering consumers to the only source of supply considered to be reliable and safe.”

The Low Down spoke to a home grower, who argued that the Supreme Court’s decision is “ironic,” as he said there is nothing safer than growing your own weed in your own backyard. This Hills resident, who we’ve agreed to keep anonymous, said he wouldn’t let the law scare him from producing his own pot.

“Homegrown pot is the safest supply you could ask for,” said the grower. “You’re growing it for yourself, for your own needs. It’s not going through any middlemen. It’s, frankly, a whole lot less potent and scary than some of this stuff on the shelves of the publicly-produced, licensed pot.”

Ryan Brown, Hills cannabis entrepreneur and the operator of the West Quebec Growers cannabis farm in Venosta, said the ban on homegrown pot is problematic because it limits access to cannabis for lower-income adults and does nothing to combat the stigma that still exists around smoking weed.

Brown said he has been growing weed legally since 2019, but doesn’t sell in Quebec because of the many restrictions around cannabis.

“If the federal government has said cannabis is legal and every adult is free to choose to consume or not consume it, well, this goes against that,” said Brown. “It also further creates stigmas and walls that shouldn’t be there anymore."

Brown said he disagrees with the police argument that the ban will help them target organized crime. While he agreed that a neighbourhood Joe Blow could sell some pot to a few neighbours, the four-plant restriction in place across other jurisdictions in Canada “eliminates any real, viable, commercial access.”

“It would be no different than the dude who brews beer in his basement,” added Brown.

There’s also the question of enforcement. Police director Deramond told the Low Down that enforcement will rely on calls from the public and information-sharing from partners. He said that residents caught with cannabis plants will see their plants confiscated and will be given a fine between $250 and $750. For larger grow operations, Deramond said police would consider trafficking charges.

A Hills cannabis dealer, whose name we agreed to keep anonymous, said that Quebec’s “greedy” nature will just push more would-be home growers to purchase weed from the black market — namely him.

“The people who would have grown at home are not going to go to the government weed stores because they are anti-government,” he said. He added the ban will also feed into Quebec’s culture of neighbours snitching on neighbours — the untasteful practice that now spurs most of the province’s language police action, when a local business doesn’t have enough French on their sign or website.

“This will just create more government watchdogs with neighbours telling on neighbours, who have plants. Nobody wants that,” he said.

While the ban would likely be good for business, this dealer said he wants fewer restrictions on something already legal elsewhere.

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