Conservative health critic takes exception with plan to allow homegrown marijuana

A cannabis grower in southern California tends to his plate on Feb. 10, 2017. In Canada, the Conservatives have been trying to get the Liberals to remove a portion of a bill that would allow up to four cannabis plants per household. Photo from Matt Masin/The Orange County Register via AP.

As the Liberal bill to legalize recreational cannabis makes its way through the House of Commons, the Conservatives are holding steady with her objection to home growing.

Conservative health critic and Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu has been a vocal opponent against the part of the plan that allows for up to four marijuana plants per household. On Monday, Gladu motioned for an amendment to Bill C-45 that would restrict Canadians from having “any cannabis plant in their dwelling house.”

While it isn’t against the law to grow your own fruits or vegetables in Canada, growing cannabis at home seems to have struck a nerve with the Conservatives.

“This is one of the most troubling sections of this whole bill. This is the part where the 88% of Canadians who don’t use marijuana are going to be impacted,” Gladu said on October 3.

“You could have up to 600 grams of marijuana hanging around in the house,” the MP added. “This definitely is not going to keep it out of the hands of children.”

Gladu is also concerned that the law will allow children easier access to the drug, as she explained in the House of Commons this past summer.

“We’ve already established that this is putting marijuana in the hands of children. Not just for the 15 joints that 12 year olds can have, but with the four plants per household that little Johnny can put some in the toaster oven and smoke it up.”

Last February, it was reported that Canada’s police chiefs were urging the Liberals to not allow Canadians to grow pot at home. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police cited an increased demand on law enforcement as it might be challenging for police officers to verify whether growers were within their limits.

“People will be calling and saying that their neighbour has five plants instead of four, or that their neighbour’s plants are too tall,” Gladu said last month.

The police chiefs also warmed that growing at home could pose a fire hazard.

As a federal party, the Tories generally do not support marijuana legalization. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer opposes the Liberal plan. In September, he criticized the “very short timeline” for implementation. Currently, the Liberals are planning to have cannabis legalized for recreational use by July 1, 2018.

Scheer added that he’s concerned about the minimum age to buy legal weed, which is set at 18 in the bill. The Tory leader told reporters the “widespread consensus” is that “18 is far too young” for purchasing pot.

Some health officials have made it clear that they believe 21 would be a better age to allow Canadians to legally consume marijuana.

“[The] age of 21, over the long term, has a bigger impact on decreasing youth cannabis use rates than having an age of 19,” Dr. Robert Strang told CBC News last month.

But that’s not the point of contention Gladu brought up this week with her motions put forward during the report stage of the bill. Instead, the Tory health critic says she is worried that Bill C-45 could potentially create a new black market for growers once legalization is implemented.

“Organized crime does get into home grow,” she said in October. “That’s what happened in Colorado. That’s why it shouldn’t have been allowed. This is problematical for all the Canadians that don’t want these unintended consequences.”

With a majority mandate, the Liberals have enough votes to pass the bill without adopting Gladu’s amendment. But the Tories won’t let that stop them from bringing their concerns to the forefront.

“We’re going to continue to criticize this bill as it moves forward and point that out to Canadians,” Scheer said.