Pubdate: Wed, 06 Dec 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Solomon Israel
Page: A1


MANITOBANS will be prohibited from growing marijuana for recreational
purposes at home after cannabis is legalized in 2018, should the
provincial government's new Safe and Responsible Retailing of Cannabis
Act become law.

The bill was introduced by Justice Minister Heather Stefanson in the
provincial legislative assembly Tuesday.

Although the federal Cannabis Act will allow Canadian adults to grow
up to four cannabis plants at their home, Stefanson said her
government was banning the practice, primarily for two reasons.

"This approach is consistent with our commitment to protect youth, and
also responds directly to concerns that homegrown cannabis may be
diverted to the black market," she told reporters Tuesday.

Stefanson also ascribed the decision to "a tremendous amount of
respect for law enforcement."

"I think it's difficult when they go into a home and start to look at
whether it's four or six plants or 10 plants. I think that's a very
difficult thing to be enforcing out there," she said.

Robb Inniss, who plans to open a hydroponic growing supply store in
Selkirk next year, said Tuesday's news left him "absolutely

"The black market will probably continue to thrive, just because we
are such a prime agricultural area," said Inniss. "Whether it's
organized crime or whether it's just private, personal growers, this
won't solve the problem."

The ban on home cannabis growing in Manitoba will not affect medical
cannabis users who are licensed to grow their own by the federal
government. Inniss said that should allow him to forge ahead with
opening his hydroponics store in the Interlake region.

"The amount of licensed personal growers (for medical purposes), as
well as the organic vegetable industry, should be enough to sustain
us," he said.

Scott Bernstein, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Drug Policy
Coalition, took issue with Stefanson's claim banning home growing will
prevent cannabis from reaching youth or the black market.

"Four plants is not very much cannabis," he said. "That might supply a
couple people, it's not going to supply an entire dispensary."

Preventing home growing, Bernstein said, will primarily affect two
types of people: cannabis users who want to control exactly what goes
into their crop, and those without the financial means to purchase
cannabis at retail prices.

Local cannabis advocate Steven Stairs told reporters that he was
"extremely disappointed" by the government's decision to prevent
Manitobans from growing their own cannabis.

"A medical patient can grow 50 plants in their basement with a
disability, but an able-bodied person can't grow four plants safely? I
think that's nonsense."

The decision to disallow home growing is good news for Manitoba's
real-estate industry, said Lorne Weiss, chairman of the Manitoba Real
Estate Association's political action committee.

"Homegrown marijuana plants have never been allowed before, they've
been illegal, other than for medical reasons, and we'd like that to
continue," Weiss said.

"From our members' perspective, it's a good move to ensure our clients
that they are buying what they think they're buying - which is a home
that has not been used for the growing of cannabis."

The Safe and Responsible Retailing of Cannabis Act will also create
new provincial offences for selling cannabis without a licence,
purchasing from an unlicensed retailer, giving cannabis to a person
younger than 19, buying cannabis using a fake ID or giving a fake ID
to an underage person to purchase cannabis and providing cannabis to
an intoxicated person.

The new offences will be backed by penalties that are stricter than
those under Manitoba's current Liquor and Gaming Control Act, which
the new bill will amend.

For individuals, punishments could include fines of up to $100,000 and
a year in prison, while corporations would face fines of up to
$500,000. Minor offences would be penalized using tickets similar to
those for provincial liquor offences, according to civil servants who
briefed journalists on the details of the bill.

The bill will give regulatory power over cannabis to the Liquor and
Gaming Authority of Manitoba, which will be renamed the Liquor, Gaming
and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba. The LGCA will be responsible for
licensing cannabis stores in Manitoba, both retail and online.

The Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corp. will be responsible for
overseeing distribution of cannabis produced by federally licensed
companies, and all provincial retailers will be required to source
product from MLL.

Two categories of retail store will be permitted: the first will
restrict entrance to those of legal age, while the second will allow
full public access but keep products hidden behind the counter.

Combining cannabis sales with alcohol sales at the same location will
be prohibited, the civil servants said.

Manitoba municipalities will be allowed to hold plebiscites to ban
retail marijuana stores in their communities.
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