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EDITORIAL: Stick with essentials

Anyone who was hoping to ring in Canada Day with a legal high probably put off that dream some time ago. But as the federal bill to legalize cannabis gets bunted back and forth between the upper and lower houses, it’s looking like final passage might be closer to the end of summer.

As the Senate tries to work in revisions to Bill C-45, one interesting sticking point between the Senate and Commons is over the right of Canadians to grow a modest quantity of the plant at home. The upper house says provinces should have the right to outlaw home cultivation.

Before sending the bill back to the Senate on Monday, MPs voted to accept 27 of the amendments – described as technical – tweaked some and rejected 13 outright. The one regarding home cultivation of plants is one that stands out.

That puts senators in a position of either accepting the will of elected government members and approving the legislation or prolonging the standoff.

No doubt many Canadians might have expected some strong opinions when it comes to legalization of a substance that has long been vilified by some and the subject of laws that at one time saw people jailed even for simple possession.

The home cultivation discrepancy between the two houses reflects the expressed intentions of two of the provinces. Quebec and Manitoba have said they would ban home-growing of marijuana – notably at odds with the federal legislative bill that would allow the cultivation of up to four plants in a household.

It’s not just legislators who are concerned about this aspect of the changed law. Real estate professionals and landlords have spoken out about apprehensions concerning potential risks, such as high moisture levels in grow areas and inordinate power use for grow lights. Landlords also have expressed fears that the odours associated with the plants would draw complaints from some tenants.

Given that home cultivation has been an option in the past for those licensed to produce medical marijuana, there is some experience to draw on to shed light on these matters.

On the other hand, the alternative to home growing for those interested in the product in most provinces means buying from a Crown entity – in Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation will be the single option. It’s not hard to fathom that some people would object to that monopolized system, along with the high prices one can expect.

It’s pretty hard to make a case for laws that ban home growing right. And on that note, good luck to the provinces who want to take that path. Chances are the law would be largely ignored if it’s out of line with the rest of the country, and it certainly would be subject to challenge.

What the fashioners of this legislation need to stick to are the elements regarding safety, keeping the stuff away from minors, education and health counselling. That’s what matters to most people. Doubtless there will be a need to tweak things later, but at this time they’re inventing the wheel, for the first time.

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