It's taken a few months since legalization, but Canadians in three provinces can finally access legal starting materials to grow up to four cannabis plants in their own home without requiring medical authorization.
Access to government-regulated starting materials kicked off in Newfoundland last month when the provincial government's CannabisNL store started offering Eve & Co. cannabis clones for sale.
Each of the six clone varieties currently on offer cost $40 apiece, with a $35 shipping fee that covers up to four plants. Legal cannabis seeds still aren't available to Newfoundlanders.
Consumers in Ontario can now buy seeds without breaking the law, but clones remain unavailable. The Ontario Cannabis Store website is now carrying two different types of feminized seeds called "Bakerstreet" and "Argyle" from Canopy Growth Corp.'s Tweed brand, at $60 for a package of four.
Those same two seed types are also for sale through Alberta's online cannabis store, although the Bakerstreet variety appears to have sold out already.
Both Tweed's seeds and Eve & Co.'s clones seem relatively expensive to expert cannabis breeder Ryan Lee, founder of Chemovar Corp.
"Let me put it to you this way — if you go to the Emerald Cup in California, you can pick up a clone for $15," he says.
If he were an average home grower given the choice between growing from seeds and growing from clones, Lee says he'd choose the clones. The vast majority of cannabis seeds aren't uniform, he explains.
"They have this huge amount of genetic variation, and that ends up being fine for a licensed producer. When they start their grow, they grow 1,000 plants and they select the one that is... unique as a product line, but also high-yielding and disease-resistant, or whatever the traits that they deem important."
That top-notch plant then becomes the licensed producer's mother plant, from which any number of genetically identical clones can be cut and subsequently grown. But recreational home cannabis growers can only grow four plants at once.
"So your probability of hitting a winner plant that is tasty, flavourful, produces the desired effect… that's a lot to ask of four seeds," says Lee, who doubts many cannabis producers will be making their best clones available to consumers in the near future.
"A truism in this market — and I know it to be true, because this is our business — is that people don't want to give away their winner plants," he says.
Right now, Lee describes Canada's market for legal starting materials is "very nascent."
"And it will get better, but I think that as of today, it leaves a lot to be desired."
Recreational cannabis users in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and all three territories still can't access seeds or clones through their provincial retailers. Users in Manitoba and Quebec shouldn't expect to see cannabis starting materials at their provincial stores, since home cultivation in those two provinces is banned.
For everyone else, there are a few other ways to legally access cannabis starting materials right now.
Seeds found in legally purchased cannabis bud should be perfectly legal for home cultivation, although they're not the most desirable seeds from a grower's perspective.
A person who's authorized to grow their own cannabis for medical purposes should be able to share some of their seeds or clones with another adult without violating federal law, although it might pose a risk to their personal cultivation licence.
And, of course, illegal seeds are still widely available in Canada and around the world — but any cannabis grown from those seeds would be considered illicit cannabis under the law, and be illegal to possess.
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Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web
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- Weed data is number one: Statistics Canada's Chief Statistician ranks cannabis as the federal body's top statistical topic of 2018.