Many aspiring Manitoba home cannabis growers presumed they’d have to wait for an eventual constitutional challenge to the provincial home cultivation ban before they would be allowed to grow their four plants.
This week, the possibility for a faster solution to the homegrow question emerged as all three of Manitoba’s opposition parties—the Liberals, NDP, and Greens—have promised they will overturn the ban if they win September’s upcoming provincial election.
Ahead of legalization last year, Manitoba joined Quebec in rejecting the Senate’s recommendation that provinces allow home cannabis cultivation.
Members of the Pallister Progressive Conservative government resorted to the usual arguments employed by virtually anyone on any side of any cannabis debate.
They claimed their home growing ban would weaken the illicit market, and help protect Manitoban children from being harmed by cannabis. (Since the children would have to know how to dry and decarboxylate cannabis plants in order to make them mind-altering, this argument had some flaws.)
At the time, Premier Brian Pallister acknowledged his government’s attitude to home cultivation might “evolve over time,” but said until then, “If we’re going to make errors, let’s err on the side of safety. Let’s make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect people who choose to use the product, but also protect those who do not. […]
“People will say, ‘Look, I have a friend who makes beer in his basement.’ Cool, great, good. Go for it. Beer and wine have been legally consumed in our country for decades and decades. This is a brand new product.”
Those caught growing cannabis in Manitoba are not charged with a criminal offense, they are subject to a $2,542 fine, and they will also be obliged to declare the offence at the US border.
Developing the provincial cannabis law last summer, Pallister signalled his awareness that any citizen fined for home cultivation might challenge the law as conflicting with the Cannabis Act, saying “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
The bridge may be closer than expected—but only marginally.
Though the three opposition parties offering to legalize home growing recently polled as representing a combined 52% of intended voters, the incumbent Pallister Progressive Conservatives are polling with a significant lead over the closest of its rivals.
Pallister has turned down requests to discuss his cannabis policy and it remains unclear whether he and his government have had enough time to see their position on home growing evolve.