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Canada Plans to Allow Outdoor Cannabis Cultivation

Previously, the government required all marijuana to be grown indoors in highly-secure facilities under constant video surveillance.

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Photo via iStock/ AlenaPaulus

Canadian cannabis cultivators will be allowed to grow their product outdoors under new regulations that the federal government is expected to unveil later in the week. Under Canada's medical cannabis program, cultivators were required to grow their ganja indoors, in tightly regulated facilities where every interaction with a plant is recorded on video. The strict laws on these grows were intended to ensure that marijuana remained free of mold and other contaminants, as well as to help deter theft of valuable crops.

Legal recreational cannabis will go on sale throughout the Great White North on October 17th, and the country's first harvest of adult-use herb will come from these indoor facilities, which have been ramping up to meet expanded demand for weed. The government's decision to also allow outdoor grows comes too late in the season to allow businesses to begin planting pot outside this year, but will give them time to break ground on such farms before next spring.

Government officials have said that allowing these outdoor grows will make it easier for new cultivation companies to quickly begin producing product. “Our decision to allow outdoor grow under strict rules is the result of extensive consultations and will contribute to creating a diverse and competitive legal cannabis industry with the ultimate goal of displacing the illegal market,” Thierry Bélair, spokesperson for Canadian Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, according to The Globe and Mail.

The government's decision drew criticism from many existing cannabis firms, who have been investing billions of dollars on new indoor cultivation facilities compliant with the country's original marijuana cultivation regulations. The Cannabis Canada Council, a lobbying group that includes major licensed producers like Canopy Growth Corp. and Aurora Cannabis Inc., said that they “believe large-scale outdoor commercial cultivation should be disallowed,” reports The Globe and Mail.

The council pressed the Canadian Senate to amend the legalization bill to prohibit outdoor production, arguing that outdoor pot plants could easily be stolen and diverted to the black market. Bruce Linton, head of Canopy Growth, warned that thieves could use drones to pluck buds from cannabis plants, even if they were surrounded by fences. The Senate did draft an amendment allowing individual provinces to prohibit home cultivation of cannabis, but the House of Commons removed this amendment under the advisement of the federal government, and the Senate agreed to pass the House version of the bill.

Earlier this year, Health Canada said that they were investigating the security risks posed by outdoor cultivation, as well as possible methods to prevent the pungent aroma of weed harvests from disturbing cultivators' neighbors. Deepak Anand, vice president of consultancy firm Cannabis Compliance, said that he expects that the government's rules for outdoor farms will likely mirror the restrictions on indoor grows. "I don't think you will be able to walk up to a facility and actually touch the plants,” he told The Globe and Mail. “I think there will be a lot of security requirements.”