Dear Herb: I'm part-owner of a house in Vancouver. My co-owners and I are interested in growing the legal limit of four marijuana plants in our house, in a grow tent. One of the co-owners is a real estate agent, and is concerned about the house being designated as a grow-op. If I show them proof that growing cannabis is 100 per cent safe and legal, then we will try.
Do you have any insight or information regarding the government's view on growing in a house? Can a house be condemned now over four cannabis plants? Should we also check with our insurance and mortgage provider if they are okay with it? — Growth Plan
Dear Growth Plan: Thanks for your question.
You want to show your co-owners that home cultivation of up to four cannabis plants indoors is "100 per cent safe and legal". We'll get to the safety aspect in a minute, but right off the bat I want to make it clear that yes, home cultivation of up to four cannabis plants by an adult can absolutely be done in a perfectly legal manner in British Columbia.
I'd recommend thoroughly reading The Leaf News' primer on legal home cannabis cultivation, which will get you up to date on all the relevant federal and provincial rules. In British Columbia, provincial restrictions on home cannabis cultivation make it illegal to grow in a house that's being used as a daycare. It's also illegal to grow cannabis in B.C. in a manner that makes the cannabis plants visible from a public place. (A B.C. government spokesperson previously told The Leaf News that this law doesn't apply if your cannabis plants are visible from the private property next door. Cannabis plants visible from the street or sidewalk would be out of bounds.)
Now let's talk about safety: In my opinion, you'll never be able to prove that growing cannabis at home is "100 per cent safe," because nothing in this world is 100 per cent safe — everything entails some level of risk, even if it's negligible. But I think you can show your co-owners that home cannabis cultivation can be reasonably safe.
I'm assuming your primary safety concerns here are fire and damage from moisture. The Leaf News discussed those issues with an experienced cannabis grower ahead of legalization, and you can read his advice in full here — but the gist of it is, these are perfectly manageable risks, especially if you're only growing four plants.Advertisement
Preventing mould or moisture damage from the cannabis plants in your future grow tent is a matter of proper ventilation. Cannabis grow tents include ports for air intake and output, which can be used in combination with fans and ducting to blow the humid air from the tent directly outside of your house and bring fresh, dry air back in to replace it. If you're doing it right, very little moist air should escape the tent to fog up the room that contains your garden. You can keep a moisture-measuring hygrometer in the containing room to make sure it's not too humid, and control any errant humidity outside the tent with a dehumidifier.
As for fire risk, the two main concerns are hot lights and electrical fires caused by improperly installed equipment. High-pressure sodium lamps (HPS) are often used for home cannabis cultivation, but they use lots of electricity and get very hot. If you're going to use HPS lighting, venting the hot exhaust air from your tent will be especially important. You'll also need a fairly tall grow tent, in order to keep the lights an appropriate distance from the tops of your plants. A safer lighting option might be LED lights, which give off less heat.
In terms of electrical fire risk, the experienced cannabis grower we interviewed strongly recommended hiring a professional electrician to wire up the power for your lights. Since you won't be breaking the law by growing this cannabis, there's nothing to hide. Tell the electrician exactly what you're doing and what equipment you plan to use, and they can help you make sure your lights are powered safely.
If your co-owners want to know about the government's view on home cannabis cultivation, I'd point out to them that the government explicitly legalized the practice within certain limits, which you plan to respect. If you really want to do your homework, you could show them the 2016 federal court ruling in Allard v. Canada, a court case that dealt with whether or not Canadian medical cannabis patients should be allowed to grow their own cannabis. (Federal lawyers at the time did their best to show the practice was unsafe, but the judge found that "the great majority of patients were able to produce their own cannabis as medicine without any threat to their own health and safety or that of the public.")
I don't think home cannabis cultivation is any business of your mortgage provider, although it wouldn't hurt to read the fine print on your mortgage. It could be a concern for your home insurance provider, though. I called up the Insurance Bureau of Canada to ask what they think.
"Our position is really that individuals need to abide by the terms of the law, which of course is four plants," said IBC spokesman Steve Kee. "And any cultivation beyond that limit, the legal limit, would be illegal. And if you go by the words of (insurance) policies, (illegal growing) could trigger an existing intentional act exclusion clause."
As long as you're growing cannabis within the limits of the law, Kee added, the IBC's position is that you don't need to notify your insurer. Any significant modifications to your house related to the grow might require notification, however. And either way, it would be wise to read your insurance policy carefully to check for any language that could cover home cannabis cultivation, although Kee said he's not aware of any Canadian home insurers that have put limitations on home cultivation so far.
In my opinion, the real horror stories about indoor cannabis gardens tend to involve illicit grow-ops with hundreds or thousands of plants filling an entire house. Four plants in a properly-ventilated grow tent are unlikely to cause damage, I think. I suggest you and your co-owners visit a local cannabis grow equipment store and chat with the staff about the equipment you'll need to grow safely — in my experience, employees at those stores love to share their tips and tricks.
If the risks of indoor growing seem like too much, remember — growing four cannabis plants outdoors is also legal in B.C., and the climate in Vancouver is right for it! You could even grow your cannabis in a small outdoor greenhouse and get the best of both worlds.
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