Why You Can’t Grow Weed in Canada That Won’t Get You High

Canadians with chronic conditions are breaking the law to grow their own CBD. Health Canada and its Licensed Producers need to fix that.

Jarrett Moffatt
Jan 30 · 5 min read

If you’re a Canadian wanting to grow cannabis containing high amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) and trace amounts (under 1%) of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), you can’t. Well, you can, but you’re technically committing a crime. That’s right: Grandma’s hemp garden for her achy bones is an indictable offence carrying a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months– unless she got her seeds from a legal source. The problem? There isn’t a legal source right now. And it isn’t clear when there will be one.

Under Health Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), the only legal way to obtain seeds for a personal medical grow is through one of the country’s Licensed Producers (LPs)– companies like Tweed, Aurora, and Canna Farms. If you grow cannabis that, as the Cannabis Act puts it, “is from a seed or plant material that [you] know is illicit cannabis,” you’re committing an indictable offence. Which is a problem because, as of now, no LP in Canada is offering seeds that won’t get you high.

Why Would You Want to Grow Weed That Doesn’t Get You High?

With the federal legalization of cannabis on Oct. 17, 2018, everyone’s attention has been on the ‘green rush’ surrounding recreational cannabis. And why not: Canada’s only the second nation in the world to legalize cannabis for recreational use. It’s a big deal. But there’s still a need for affordable and consistent access to medical cannabis for those with serious health conditions, and right now that access isn’t being adequately provided.

I should know: I’m an ACMPR-licensed grower, and I’m not able to legally purchase seeds that won’t get me high.

I’ve been living with chronic illness for about seven years, and CBD is the first medication that’s had any impact on the severe pain I deal with. But when I first started taking CBD, I had to limit my dosage because I couldn’t afford the products LPs were selling. When you need an effective dose of 60–100 milligrams of CBD daily, it gets expensive. (About $300–500 CAD a month.)

Growing CBD has changed my life. (It’s pretty easy to grow, too.) Being able to make CBD with just soil, water, and light means I’m able to take an effective dose, stay within my budget, and ultimately provide myself a quality of life every person with chronic illness deserves. If Canadians need an example of why it’s important for medical patients to have legal access to seeds, I’m it.

No Licensed Producer in Canada Offers Non-Intoxicating Seeds or Clones for Medical Patients.

In an email response from Health Canada, senior media relations advisor Tammy Jarbeau noted that “As of January 14, 2019, there are 69 licence holders authorized to sell seeds [and] plants.” That sounds like a lot, but after subtracting the multiple licenses held by some LPs, there’s around 51 left that medical patients can contact.

I phoned every one of those LPs to see if they sold anything to medical patients, and the results were frustrating. Because when Health Canada says there’s 69 LPs authorized to sell seeds, what they’re not saying is that it’s really only five LPs that have something, and none have high-CBD strains that won’t get you high. Which means that if you want to grow high-CBD cannabis in Canada, you have to find your seeds from somewhere other than an LP.

Health Canada’s Advice for Getting High-CBD Seeds Legally: Have Some Gifted to You.

Since being able to buy high-CBD seeds from an LP is impossible, and buying seeds from anywhere other than an LP is an indictable offence, Health Canada has a provision in its regulations to get around its regulations. From Health Canada’s email:

“It is not prohibited for an adult individual to distribute up to four cannabis plants to another adult, provided that the plants are not flowering, or have buds on them… It is also not prohibited to distribute up to 30 cannabis plant seeds, provided that the seeds were lawfully obtained.”

Health Canada says the intent of this legal workaround is to avoid criminalizing “the small-scale sharing of cannabis plants and seeds between adults, such as family members, friends or neighbours,” which is important, because we shouldn’t make criminals out of people sharing seeds.

But offering this provision as a solution for those seeking a legal source of high-CBD strains ignores the current ACMPR landscape: unlike high-THC strains, it’s really hard to find high-CBD seeds ‘through the grapevine’ unless you’re connected to the right people. And besides that, medical patients shouldn’t have to go on strain-hunting expeditions to treat their conditions. That’s the antithesis of what legalization was supposed to bring to Canadians.

As for me? I’m still searching for those seeds that Health Canada thinks my family members, friends, and neighbors are waiting to gift me. So if you’re reading this and know me, I have to ask: Why are you keeping those Charlotte’s Web cuttings out of my reach?

Commercial Cannabis Strains That Won’t Get You High But You Can’t (Yet) Buy.

These strains, all of which consistently test under 1% THC, are illegal to grow under the Cannabis Act unless an LP sells them. The weird thing? All of these breeders (except for MM Genetics, but a representative told me “something’s coming up”) already supply Canadian LPs with genetics: strains like CBD Shark Shock, White Widow, Critical, and Blueberry are all common in the recreational market. If LPs can offer those for recreational consumption, why can’t they also offer these non-intoxicating strains for medical cultivation?

Dinamed CBD (Also available in autoflower)

Breeder: Dinafem www.dinafem.org

CBD: 12–16%

THC: 0.3–0.5%

Flowering time: 60 days (70 days for autoflower)

Dinamed CBD Plus

Breeder: Dinafem www.dinafem.org

CBD: 15–20%

THC: 0.5–1%

Flowering time: 55–60 days

CBD Charlotte’s Angel (Also available in autoflower)

Breeder: Dutch Passion www.dutch-passion.com

CBD: 15%

THC: 0.7%

Flowering time: 11 weeks (13 weeks for autoflower)

CBD Therapy

Breeder: CBD Crew www.cbdcrew.org

CBD: 8–10%

THC 0.5%

Flowering time: 8–9 weeks


Breeder: MM Genetics www.mmgenetics.eu

CBD: 11–20%

THC: 0.5%

Flowering time: 9 weeks

Master Hemp

Breeder: MM Genetics www.mmgenetics.eu

CBD: 12–16%

THC: 0.3–0.5%

Flowering time: 55–60 days

Jarrett Moffatt

Written by

Writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. www.jarrettmoffatt.com

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