Should legalization initiatives allow people to grow cannabis at home? It's a question that Canadian and American activists and legislators will have to answer as they move toward the end cannabis prohibition.
Of the four legal states, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska allow residents to grow at home. But Washington State doesn't. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C. is allowing home cultivation while the district continues fighting with Congress over legalization.
Canada and other American states considering legalization will undoubtedly monitor the situation in each legal district while mulling over marijuana regulations. To amplify the debate, here are five reasons why you should get behind personal marijuana gardens.
1. It's not really legal without home cultivation
Kirk Tousaw - a Canadian lawyer and cannabis advocate - doesn't think cannabis will be truly legal unless people can grow at home:
"It doesn't make a lot of sense, in my view, and wouldn't really be legalization if you continue to criminalize people for having home gardens," he told Civilized. "I think that's a must. The question is, what are the restrictions - if any - going to be on that home production?"
He also thinks banning pot gardens could spark a human rights crisis in Canada:
"I don't think the charter would allow a situation where you can buy a plant in the stores but you can't grow it in your backyard. That seems to me to be a very serious infringement on Section 7 of the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms]," which protects a person's autonomy and personal liberties.
So the right to grow could very well become the law in the land in Canada.
2. Uprooting the black market
Home cultivation would help combat the black market, according to a policy paper drafted by the British Columbia wing of Canada's Liberal Party back in 2013. Growing cannabis at home, the policy makers wrote, would give consumers a legal alternative to retail cannabis, which means there wouldn't be any need to keep dealers on the street in business. Competing with home cultivation would also force businesses to keep the cost of retail cannabis low and the quality high in order to attract customers.
With those incentives in place, there might not be any room in the industry for the black market.
3. Making medicine affordable
Fabian Henry - founder of Marijuana for Trauma in Oromocto, New Brunswick, Canada - told Civilized that growing at home would give medical marijuana patients - especially veterans - better access to affordable medicine:
"Patients should someday have the right to grow cannabis themselves. Coverage for veterans only covers costs for certain conditions. Civilians have zero coverage. If someone is taking cannabis for cancer, the price is often out of reach. There is no drug plan or health insurance for them. If they could grow a few plants at home, then they would have better access to medicine, and they wouldn't have to worry about chemicals."
So growing at home could substantially improve the quality of life for many patients.
4. Home growing is quality assurance
Growing cannabis at home does not pose a threat to public safety, according to the official principles of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). But home cultivation would ensure that consumers can obtain safe and affordable cannabis:
"Criminalizing the personal cultivation of cannabis is an arbitrary prohibition that has absolutely no basis in public safety. NORML supports the right of individuals to grow their own cannabis as an alternative to purchasing it from licensed commercial producers. NORML maintains that the inclusion of legislative provisions protecting the non-commercial home cultivation of cannabis serves as leverage to assure the product available at retail outlets is high quality, safe and affordable."
So you could help set the bar high, and the prices low at retailers by growing quality strains in your garden.
5. Cannabis gardening is a political statement
I'm sure the Democrats would take issue with this claim, but Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) - a pro-legalization caucus within the GOP - argue that home cultivation reflects its party's values of individual liberty, personal responsibility, free markets and limited government. Hunter White, RAMP's Communications Director, told Civilized:
"We believe the right to cultivate is an individual liberty, and personal responsibility issue because of basic property rights. We cannot allow a regulatory mechanism that limits the rights of a citizen to possess marijuana in any form, whether that be in the form of oil, plants, etc. Further, it is an issue of free markets as any regulatory mechanism that artificially restricts who can cultivate a plant necessarily limits who can participate in the market....[A] system like that would clearly favor the wealthy and well connected. The same holds for regulatory systems that restrict individuals from growing marijuana while allowing businesses to. Finally, the issue of limited government looms large in this discussion. Regulation runs counter to the Republican principle of limited government....regulation can be a good thing in certain circumstances. However, we do not believe there is a compelling government interest to prevent individuals from cultivating their own marijuana."
That said, RAMP also argues that states should have the right to choose the regulatory system that works best for them. White added,
"if given the choice between legalization that didn't allow private cultivation, or nothing, we would support the legalization bill 100%. We are pragmatic and understand that the politics is a process. States will need to find regulatory systems that will work for them. They will not always get it right. They will make mistakes, and they will fix them."