EDMONTON—Cannabis consumers who can’t buy seeds are finding creative ways to grow their own pot.
Even though the federal government made it legal on Oct. 17 to grow four plants per household, officials say there is no place to buy seeds without breaking the law.
“As far as I know, there’s none in the country,” said Kaleigh Miller, a spokesperson with the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC).
Officials with the AGLC, the provincial government agency that distributes cannabis to stores across Alberta, say they’ve only received 20 per cent of the pot they were promised under contracts with 15 licensed producers.
None of that 20 per cent includes seeds.
“We’re working very hard to get them, because we do know that it is a market that people want to partake in.”
Heather MacGregor, a spokesperson for Edmonton-based licensed producer Aurora Cannabis, said in an email that the company is “currently working hard to review the optimal product portfolio for starting materials, both in the form of seeds and live plants.
“We are concerned about rushing this sort of product to market and wish to ensure the utmost quality at all stages of the supply chain before beginning these offerings,” she said.
“We will continue to work with our provincial partners to ensure the best possible product offering is available to patients and consumers in the near term.”
With nothing in the stores, people are finding other ways to grow.
Darryl Kolewaski, a homegrower with a medical licence in Spruce Grove, west of Edmonton, said he has had hundreds of frustrated people approach him looking for seeds after being unable to find them in stores.
He said he’s allowed to gift plants under the Cannabis Act, which he does when he has capacity to do so.
“You can’t just hand out stuff, you’ve got to plan for it,” he said.
The Cannabis Act states adults can share up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or the equivalent with other adults.
Kolewaski said he usually points people to “reputable” seed banks in Europe, though it would technically be illegal for Canadians to plant seeds at home that were purchased from another country.
Tom Neumann, who has a medical grow-op in Ardrossan, east of Edmonton, is launching a website Wednesday called Home Grown Connect that will give cannabis users a place to access seeds, clones, and cannabis through trading or gifting.
Users will pay a fee to join the website, but won’t pay for the product itself. He said a lawyer has assured him it’s all above board.
Neumann hopes to get 4,000 people in the Edmonton area to join the site.
“There’s a bigger market than I thought from all of the action that’s happened already,” he said. “A lot of people want to grow cannabis. It’s amazing.”
In the retail market, Brendon Tomiuk, a manager at north Edmonton store Cannabis House, said he will bring in seeds as soon as he’s able.
He said about one in 50 customers asks if the store carries seeds.
“We would have liked to have been (selling seeds). It would have been nice if that was available,” he said.
Seeds will come in packs of four and customers will be allowed to buy up to 30 at a time.
James Burns, CEO of Alcanna, which runs Nova Cannabis stores in Edmonton and Calgary, said the lack of stock has been frustrating, but there’s no point getting upset about seeds while retailers wait for anything at all to stock the shelves.
“Until there’s something to buy, there’s not much we can do about it. Everything comes from the government and the government gets everything through the (licensed producers), so it’s not a traditional retail. You’ve just got to sit and wait,” he said.
While head shops have openly sold cannabis seeds in the past, Miller said that’s always been illegal.
She said the AGLC has gone to all its contracted producers and new ones trying to access more product, but everyone is tapped out. Some producers sound “fairly hopeful” they can start supplying seeds within the new year, she said, but it’s too early to give a more specific timeline.
Health Canada spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau said in an emailed statement that seeds and seedlings can be legally purchased for non-medical purposes “only from a provincially or territorially authorized cannabis retailer,” or for medicinal purposes from a federally licensed seller. Jarbeau added that supply arrangements are negotiated directly between federally licensed producers and the distributors and retailers that are authorized by the provinces and territories.
Kevin Maimann is an Edmonton-based reporter covering education and marijuana legalization. Follow him on Twitter: @TheMaimann
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