Bill VanderGraaf grows medicinal marijuana in his basement to help cope with PTSD.

Once pot becomes legal, the retired police officer thinks recreational marijuana users should also be able to grow marijuana in their homes.

“They’re actually encouraging the black market until this settles down and I don’t think it’s necessary to charge people criminally,” said VanderGraaf.

Manitoba introduced its Safe and Responsible Retailing of Cannabis Act Tuesday, amending the Liquor and Gaming Control Act and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation Act.

Under the bill, the legal age to purchase cannabis will be 19, a year older than someone in Manitoba can legally drink alcohol. Users can’t grow marijuana in their home unless they have a medical license. And penalties will increase to a maximum fine of $100,000 or one-year imprisonment for individuals and a maximum fine of $500,000 for corporations for offences such as selling marijuana from an unlicensed producer or as an unlicensed retailer. 

Lynda Balneaves, associate professor of nursing at the University of Manitoba, has studied cannabis for about nine years. She thinks the conversation around cannabis should focus on harm prevention instead of prohibition.

“There’s almost a suggestion alcohol is safer for an 18-year-old than cannabis. And I don’t believe we should be arguing that nor encouraging that belief,” Balneaves said.

“When we are also preventing 18-year-olds from accessing it, we’re also preventing them from accessing the information and education about the potential risks.”

Avrom Charach, the spokesperson for the Professional Property Managers Association (PPMA)—an organization representing more than 70,000 rental units in Winnipeg—is pleased Manitobans won’t be able to grow recreational marijuana at home.

“If it was allowed, if you look at a 40 or 50 unit apartment building, which is what we have, you could have hundreds of plants in there,” Charach said, who’s going to be pushing for the province to allow landlords to be able to ban marijuana smoking in rental suites where cigarette smoking is allowed.

“The smell is more pungent. We know that from experience because people complain regularly about the smell coming from certain suites,” Charach said.

Bill VanderGraaf tends to his pot plants for about an hour a day. He thinks if the price of marijuana is low enough, the black market and desire for some users to grow their own marijuana will eventually fade. In the meantime, VanderGraaf thinks having police stop home grow-ops is a waste.

“We really got to get smart about how we use our police resources in the city they’re there to protect us all. Not to collect taxes for the government,” VanderGraaf said.