5. What about Personal Cultivation?
TOP Takeaway: we support allowing personal cultivation of two plants per person under strict conditions.
Apart from the commercial production, distribution and retail supply chain, personal cultivation provides a potential alternative means for consumers to access cannabis.
Personal cultivation is a very emotive issue for many people. Notable arguments for its prohibition revolve around the health and safety risks it can pose, the ease that it can be directed towards illicit markets and the potential exposure to children. There are also sound arguments for allowing it, outlining that growing can be done safely and responsibly.
There are a number of examples of countries and states who have allowed users to grow their own cannabis and therefore we have considerable experience to draw on. It seems overall the effects of allowing personal production are small.[ii] A regular comparison is with the current system for home brewing alcohol and it is a common argument that those who choose to cultivate will largely be law-abiding adults who grow a limited number of plants in a safe and responsible manner for their personal use. Wine-making, home brewing of beer and curing personally grown tobacco is undertaken primarily by advocates and connoisseurs in the post-prohibition era.[iii]
One limitation of grow-your-own is that it suffers from a feast-or famine issue. If you are going to grow any at all, it is hard not to grow too much for one person. An experienced grower can produce 300 to 400 g from one large plant, which is a year’s supply for even daily users.[iv]
With all this considered and a clear understanding of the risks associated with personal cultivation, the following safeguards would create a reasonable framework for enabling small-scale cultivation of cannabis for personal use:
- Set clear limits on the scale of cultivation permitted (maximum of two plants per person), with a maximum height limit (100 cm);
- Prohibit unlicensed sale (although some degree of sharing among friends and relatives is inevitable);
- Prohibit the manufacture of concentrates in homes using volatile solvents and chemicals;
- Establish guidelines to ensure cultivation is in spaces not visible or accessible to children;
- Regulate the market to enable a legal source for starting materials (e.g., seeds, seedlings, plant cuttings).
It should also be kept in mind that current illegal large scale operations have risks including:
- Mould, when large-scale growing occurs in buildings not designed or properly equipped to do so;
- Improper electrical installation and associated fire hazards;
- Unchecked use of pesticides and fertilizers; and
- Break-ins and thefts.
These outcomes all result in dangers to neighbouring residences and first responders. Following legalisation the demand for illicitly produced cannabis should significantly decline, which in turn will reduce the number of large, commercial-scale illicit growing operations and the risks they pose to public health and safety. [i]