This is a question we get a lot in the Education Centre. Following is at least part of the answer:
- If you have an active prescription with Natural Health Services then click the ‘Grow At Home’ tab on our website, www.naturalhealthservices.ca. Check through the steps including what could disqualify you, then print off the ACMPR paperwork and fill it out. Don’t forget that even if you aren’t in a position to grow, you can assign growing rights to a willing and able Designated Person.
- Make an appointment to deal specifically with this application (separate from your doctor’s appointment). Online booking is easy through our website. Just choose your location, and then choose ACMPR as the type of appointment.
- At the dedicated appointment, your Bud Genius will go over your paperwork with you and submit it to Health Canada along with your medical documents. There is a $20 processing fee (unless you earn under 30k/yr in which case the fee is waived). Inaccurately filled paperwork can delay Health Canada’s process time so this is an important step. We send your application and medical documents in within 24 hours but it could take 2-4 months before approval from Health Canada due to a backlog in their processing. There has been a greater interest in the program than expected (currently there are approximately 2550 individual licenses but some project as much as 25% of medical users will want to attempt to grow their own or designate someone to grow for them). Health Canada has recently hired almost 20 new client services reps to help with that backlog. Remember that currently, license approval is valid for one year, as it hinges on your yearly cannabis prescription. Then you need to reapply with your renewed prescription. If your prescription is valid from October to October and you get Health Canada approval in January, this does cut down on growing time.
There is a calculator on the Health Canada website to determine how many plants you are entitled to grow. The simple answer is prescribed grams per day x 5 for indoor and prescribed grams per day x 2 for outdoors. Keep in mind the cannabis advisory board has suggested that, upon legalization, all homes be allowed to grow 4 plants sans paperwork.
There are other considerations as well. Keep in mind that you need to use plant starter material accessed though a Health Canada regulated Licensed Producer. Currently there are 8 licensed producers selling either seeds or clones. You can access the list at www.hc-sc.gc.ca. One of our green thumbed friends in Calgary, Evan, likes THC BioMed who have $20 clones, and Tweed who sell a 3 pack of seeds for $30-$55. “They are simply the most affordable. The other companies want around $80-150 a plant.”
Hart Steinfeld, the fearless leader of NHS’ Education Centre in Calgary, makes a few great points you might want to keep in mind. “It’s not easy to grow. Don’t let the nickname ‘weed’ fool you… those little ladies can be fussy, and it’s a labour of love.” Hart says that this is a good reason why quality clean plants can be expensive. ‘You’re growing medicine. You have to stay on it. It’s not like a houseplant that you can water every few days and then walk away. Things can go wrong in a 24-hour cycle and you may lose your crop.’ It’s prudent to note Hart’s advice regarding checking off whether or not you require interim supply from an LP while you are waiting to harvest your plants, “You’re going to want to put ‘yes’ to that.”
Hart says there are some starter plant strains that are more forgiving. It pays to do a little research when you are speaking with the Licensed Producers and choosing what starter plant material to go with. The good news is that Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba may not be as vulnerable to fungal mold as the more humid eastern provinces, but still keep a watchful eye for mites and fungal powdery mildew.
So, it sounds as if, in some regards, you may want to think of your cannabis plants as pets. They need daily attention and if you are going on a holiday, they will need a sitter.
Please note that Natural Health Services hosts a weekly free Education Event at 6:30 pm every Tuesday at our Calgary Education Centre. If you can’t join us in-person you can catch us LIVE on Facebook.