Legal pot growers question police chiefs' objection to homegrown marijuana

Photo from Getty Images

Licensed marijuana growers and advocates are being critical of recent recommendations made by Canada’s police chiefs, who are asking the federal government to prohibit home growing.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police submitted their request to the Liberal government’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation as it moves forward on legalizing marijuana for personal use by this spring.

The association claims homegrown marijuana would overwork police officers since it would be challenging to verify whether Canadians were growing more than legally acceptable and selling the extra product on the black market or to minors. The group also says growing at home is a fire hazard.

Law enforcement leaders are asking officials to “hold off on home grows,” CBC News reports.

But those on the other side of the argument insist there should be a different approach.

Laurie MacEachern is the founding director of the Medicinal Cannabis Patients Alliance of Canada and has been a licensed home grower for the past six years. She consumes up to 12 grams a day to help with a number of ailments, including irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pain. Her outdoor “garden” holds enough plants to produce a year’s worth of marijuana for about $500 without the use of pesticides.

MacEachern says when police officers deal with home growers, it’s usually in the form of a grow-op, which she explains as being vastly different from those who grow for medical purposes.

“Anyone who’s producing legally in their own home tends to take care because it’s where they live,” she tells Yahoo Canada News.

While MacEachern admits that some licensed growers are bound to abuse their privileges, she says that still shouldn’t lead to an outright ban on Canadians growing their own marijuana at home.

“It’s like saying anybody who has a driver’s license shouldn’t be buying alcohol,” MacEachern explains. “I don’t see police going into people’s homes who buy brew kits to figure out whether or not they’re brewing too much alcohol.”

She refers to a recent judgment from a B.C. federal court case on the right to grow medical marijuana, which ruled there was no factual evidence supporting problems with mould, fire or increased hazard to the health of growers.

Tim Moen of Cannabis Growers of Canada concedes there is trepidation and anxiety when it comes to dealing with an industry that’s largely been in the fringes of society.

“Officials are urging restraint as a way to manage their own anxiety, but if they simply looked at the evidence, they would realize that they are acting against their own interests,” he writes via email.

“All of the things that the police chiefs are concerned about have been happening in the shadows for decades, and we now have an opportunity to disinfect unsafe practices in the sunlight and enhance public safety.”

Marijuana legalization activist Jodie Emery says the language that the government and police use portrays cannabis as a danger to society and something that Canadians need to be protected from, which undermines its benefits.

“Marijuana growers are not endangering society and police are being reckless and unfair in their comments about trying to depict marijuana as something so threatening,” she says.