Home-grow entrepreneurs await marijuana legalization

Entrepreneurs who want to sell supplies to help consumers grow cannabis at home are waiting anxiously for June 7, when Canadian senators are expected to vote on, and potentially amend, the Cannabis Act.

One amendment that may pass is a ban on Canadians’ ability to grow cannabis for recreational purposes at their homes.

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The likelihood of that amendment passing in a vote of the entire Senate dimmed a bit May 28, when a Senate committee voted by a 6-5 margin against the proposal. That committee vote result, however, is not binding, and does not limit the full Senate from accepting an amendment in the Cannabis Act to have a nationwide ban on grow-your-own cannabis in a June 7 vote.

The same Senate committee, on May 28, voted for an amendment that would allow provinces to ban home growing within provincial boundaries. The Quebec government, for example, opposes allowing residents to grow weed, so allowing in the act for that provincial government to ban home-grown marijuana could head off future legal challenges that may have taken place if the province had decided to ban home-grown cannabis on its own and one of its residents objected.

Deepak Anand, vice-president of business development and government relations at Cannabis Compliance Inc., told Business in Vancouver that he believes that the Liberal government will accept in a House of Commons vote whatever amendments the Senate passes on June 7. Bill C-45 could then pass swiftly to get royal assent and not be bogged down with more back and forth between the two houses of Parliament.

“[The Liberal government] is not going to cause any unnecessary delays,” Anand said.

“They will endorse a gutted bill if that’s what they need to do.”

The fate of the Bill C-45 section that allows cannabis to be grown in homes for recreational purposes is important for business because entrepreneurs are readying to cash in on that sub-sector – a niche that could be larger than the current U-brew business for beer enthusiasts.

Regulations attached to the bill are expected to allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own supplies regardless of whether consumers are allowed to do so for recreational purposes.

“Making beer is a lot harder than growing cannabis,” said Weeds Glass and Gifts owner Don Briere.

“I tried to distil a whisky. That’s really tough. With a plant, you just put it in the ground and let it grow. If you happen to throw water on it, it’ll live.”

Briere, who is readying to open a new store, plans to sell at least 12 strains of young seedlings in small cups – four kinds of sativa cannabis, four types of indica cannabis and four hybrid strains.

The new store will bring the number of shops under the Weeds banner to 16 – of which nine are in B.C. All are illegal under federal law. Briere plans to apply for provincial and city retail licences once cannabis is legalized federally, and he will also apply for a federal nursery licence, he told BIV.

“We have two teams and two sets of lawyers working on getting licences right now,” Briere said.

Longtime garden-store operators are also eyeing the opportunity of appealing to a new breed of gardener.

“Home-grow is going to be a really big thing,” said Art Knapp Plantland owner Wim Vander Zalm.

“We’re looking at developing a kit that will have everything you need, except the seed, to grow cannabis easily in your home.”

Vander Zalm said that, at least at the beginning, he does not want to sell cannabis seeds because of the “crime element” and the necessity to go through the licensing process to get a specific nursery licence from Health Canada.

There will still be a big opportunity, he said, because most of the money to be made in the home-grow market is in supplies such as soil, fertilizer, lighting and cabinets.

Corporate interest in companies that specialize in hydroponics and growing systems has also risen as cannabis legalization nears.

Vancouver’s Aurora Cannabis Inc. in October bought two companies that sell accessories for home growers: BC Northern Lights and Urban Cultivator Inc.

Glen Korstrom / Business In Vancouver

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