Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/1/2019 (440 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Dear Herb: I live in Ontario and want to grow more than the four cannabis plants allowed, in my backyard.
What penalties might I be facing if I get caught? Could I end up with a criminal record?
Dear Growing: You're right to be worried about getting in trouble for growing more than four cannabis plants at home, especially if you're planning to do it outside where anyone can see.
Under the Cannabis Act, the penalties for cultivating more than four cannabis plants at home could be even more severe than the possible punishments for possessing illicit cannabis.
There are three possible penalties for getting caught growing more than four cannabis plants in one home (or outdoors on one residential property).
The worst possible outcome is up to 14 years imprisonment, which could result if prosecutors chose to pursue the case as a serious indictable offence. (I think that scenario is only plausible if you were caught growing way more than four plants, especially if you were growing them to sell illegally.)
The next-worst punishment would be for a summary conviction offence: up to six months in prison, and/or a fine of up to $5,000.Advertisement
Like the punishments for possessing illicit cannabis, there's also a ticketing option available to authorities if someone's caught with just a couple plants over the line. If you get caught growing five or six plants at home, you could theoretically get away with paying a $200 ticket plus a victim surcharge and administrative fees.
As soon as you grow more than six cannabis plants at home, that ticketing option disappears.
In the case of the ticket, paying the fine on time would result in an absolute discharge — that means no conviction on your criminal record. In the first two cases, being convicted of a summary or indictable offence for growing more than four cannabis plants would definitely result in a criminal record.
At this early stage of legalization, it's hard for me to say exactly how this kind of case would play out. So far, I haven't heard of a single case of a Canadian who's been convicted under the new law. (This makes sense, since the law is new and conviction can be a slow process.)
But given the possibility that you could face serious prison time for growing more than four plants, why bother?
If you really want to grow lots of weed at home, my advice would be to stay within the four-plant limit and focus on growing the biggest, highest-yielding plants you can. Since you plan to grow outside, this might be more achievable than it would be with an indoor grow. (You may have heard that the Cannabis Act placed a 100 centimetre height limit on homegrown cannabis plants, but that language was actually removed from the bill before it become law.)
I have one final thought for readers in Manitoba and Quebec, where the provincial governments have outlawed all home cannabis cultivation. If you live in one of those provinces and get caught growing between one and four cannabis plants at home, the Cannabis Act penalties listed above would not apply.
In Manitoba, getting caught growing four or fewer cannabis plants at home without medical authorization could lead to a $2,542 ticket from the provincial government.
In Quebec, people growing four or fewer cannabis plants could be punished by a provincial fine ranging from $250 to $750 for a first-time offence and doubled for successive offences.
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