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Know before you grow: The new rules for planting pot at home

As recreational marijuana becomes legal across Canada, residents of B.C. can take an active role in cultivating cannabis.

But those who do want to start growing their own at home are subject to certain conditions.

Some will be purchasing grow tents, self-contained indoor gardens that can be used to mimic certain environments.

"It’s very simple. Just open it up and you’ve got everything self-contained for cultivating four plants," said Pacific Northwest Garden Supply CEO Justin Cooper.

He spoke to CTV News about how those planning to grow plants at home should know before they get started.

How much can I grow?

As of Wednesday, adults 19 and older are allowed to grow as many as four plants. The limit is based on household, not number of people, so whether you live alone or with family members, only four plants are allowed.

Exceptions are in place only if an adult is authorized under the federal Cannabis Act to grow medical marijuana at home.

However, those living in a stratified property or rental should check before purchasing any equipment as landlords and strata councils can restrict or prohibit growing.

Where can I set up?

You’ll have to choose your location carefully. Growing cannabis is prohibited anywhere visible from a public place.

The location you choose must be at your own residence, and you can’t grow at more than one dwelling at a time.

The province also says plants can’t be grown in any area of a home authorized to operate as a community care facility or to provide child care services.

What do I need to get started?

Seeds must be purchased from a legal source, but the liquor distribution branch doesn’t have any yet. The province said there’s a shortage from licensed producers, and did not provide a date where seeds may be in stock.

Despite its lack of seeds, the province prohibits plants grown from seeds obtained through an illicit source.

But once those seeds are in hand, Cooper lists, a grower needs "space, light, fan, system, plants. That’s it."

How much does it cost?

Cooper says what you spend depends on what you want.

"It can start around $600 to $3,000 for a four-plant system… You buy the Lamborghini or the Ford Focus and everything in between," he said.

Experts also recommend purchasing a filter to deal with associated odours to avoid complaints from neighbours.

How long does it take?

From seed to harvest is a period of about four months, Cooper said.

At the end of it, "you could have failed miserably and got zero grams or you can easily yield a pound in that space."

Should I have safety concerns?

Some officials have warned that growing pot at home could lead to an increase in fires. Grow-ops have gone up in smoke as a result of issues with electrical equipment used in the process.

Two people died in such a fire at a home with a valid medical marijuana licence in Surrey this April.

The federal government has tips online concerning the growth of cannabis for medical purposes, which can be applied to recreational growing.

Its advice includes:

  • Ensure all plants are secure and that others including children can’t reach them.
  • If growing outside, consider installing a tall fence with a locking gate or alarm system to keep production areas secure.
  • If growing inside, ensure there is enough ventilation to remove excess moisture and humidity, preventing mould build-up on plants or in the building.
  • Seek the help of a licensed professional if making any changes to your home’s electrical system.
  • Store cannabis in a safe location you can secure with a lock.
  • If children are frequently in your home, ensure cannabis products are stored in childproof containers to avoid accidental ingestion.
  • If you use chemicals such as pesticides, ensure the products are safe for use on a plant you will consume or vapourize.
  • Do not use solvents such as butane, benzene, methyl chloride or chlorinated hydrocarbons if you will use your plants to make an oil or butter.

How much can I keep?

If you produce more cannabis than you are allowed to store or possess, you must destroy the excess amount to stay within your limit. Under B.C. law, an adult is permitted to possess up to a maximum of 1,000 grams of dried cannabis or an equivalent amount of other product at home.

Health Canada recommends disposing of excess product by blending it with water and cat litter to mask the odour, then placing it in your regular garbage.

"It is not advisable to burn your dried marijuana or plants," the ministry says.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Michele Brunoro

A vendor trims marijuana with scissors during the annual 4-20 cannabis culture celebration at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on April 20, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Other plants are shown inside a grow tent at Pacific Northwest Garden Supply.