May 2, 2018 5:20 pm
Updated: May 3, 2018 9:54 am

Danielle Smith: Fears about home-grown cannabis operations are bogus

FILE PHOTO - marijuana plants are pictured during a tour of Tweed Inc. in Smiths Falls, Ont.

THE CANADIAN PRESS / Sean Kilpatrick

Back in the day, the cannabis scaremongers warned of “reefer madness.” Today it’s mould madness.

Canadian Real Estate Association president Michael Bourque made a formal presentation to the Senate saying there should be a moratorium on home-grown cannabis because there is too much risk of mould and fungus spreading through ventilation systems. The four plant rule is apparently not stringent enough because, apparently, someone could grow a giant plant that produces five kilograms a year.

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READ MORE: Ontario Real Estate Association calls for stronger protections against marijuana grow ops

“We question if personal cultivation is even necessary,” he also said, when there is a “well-funded, well-capitalized industry.”

Whenever I hear an extreme exaggeration, I can’t help but check for myself to see if there is any truth to it. In the case of “reefer madness,” it turns out that research does show that some individuals with a genetic predisposition can develop drug-induced schizophrenia. There is also an ailment being seen more often in hospital emergency rooms called hyperemesis, which results in cyclic vomiting in chronic heavy cannabis users — so there is some risk.

READ MORE: Growing 4 cannabis plants for recreational use is not a ‘grow-op,’ experts say

The grain of truth on mould is that massive grow operations can cause major home damage. But could it be possible that four large plants would cause the same problems as a major hydroponic operation?

I don’t have house plants because I have a hard time keeping them alive. But I’ve known people who have many plants, including small trees, in their homes. I currently have 36 seedlings growing in my house while I wait to plant my garden outside. If I kept my cherry tomato plants indoors — and the package says they can grow to nine feet — would I be similarly at risk?

LISTEN: Matthew Durrant with MediGrow Inc. says 4 pot plants shouldn’t be too much of a concern

I asked Matthew Durrant from MediGrow Inc. whether there was anything to worry about. The short answer is no.

For one thing, the business of indoor growing has improved greatly. Durrant says four plants would take up an area of about four by four feet. Contained units, with high-efficiency LED lights, help growers control light, humidity and odour. In other words, you probably have less to worry about than other things that might add humidity to your home, like houseplants or humidifiers or aquariums or hot tubs or daily hot showers or a leaky roof.

READ MORE: Home buyers beware — Winnipeg real estate rules about grow-ops changed

But what about these massive plants that could generate up to 5 kilograms of weed a year? Durrant says you’d need a plant 15 feet high to generate that amount of product. Most homes have ceiling heights that would restrict plant growth to about four feet.

As for why anyone want to grow their own when they can buy from a “well-funded, well-capitalized industry,” that answer becomes clear when you run the numbers. Durrant says a small-scale four-plant grow unit with all the input costs for electricity, nutrients, water and so on, would generate one gram of product for a cost of 30 to 60 cents a gram. Government prices are going to be $8 to $15 a gram.

WATCH ABOVE: Municipalities set to grapple with the problem of home-grown weed

It’s obvious why governments might not want to encourage home-grown operations. But I’m still puzzled why the Canadian Real Estate Association has weighed in. This is much ado about nothing.

Danielle Smith is host of  The Danielle Smith Show on Global News Radio 770 Calgary. She can be reached at

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