Article by Kate Robertson, Growth Op
Canada’s Cannabis Act, which came into force in October 2018, allows adults to grow up to four plants at home. In theory, it seems great. A single outdoor plant can yield four to eight ounces of dried cannabis flower, or 112 to 224 grams. But in practice? Sourcing seeds to sow or clones to grow hasn’t been easy. Thus far, most licensed cannabis cultivators have kept a tight lid on their genetics.
“I bought auto-flower plants because I read that they’re much easier and foolproof for first time growers,” says Chris, a home-grower from Peterborough, Ont. who asked that his last name be withheld. “And they didn’t have those on (the Ontario Cannabis Store website). And actually, the seeds that they did have weren’t in stock when I was looking. So I had to go elsewhere.”
Where’s elsewhere? Designated growers for medical purposes can share seeds so long as they’re not for sale; illicit growers could certainly do the same, and there are also illicit seed sites with massive banks of unregulated genetics.
But in mid-May, the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) announced that in addition to the two types of seeds that they’ve offered so far, both by Canopy Growth, the provincial online retailer has signed deals with two more companies: ANC Cannabis, an Alberta micro-cultivator, and British Columbia-based ProgenyBio Agricultural Services.
According to Pete Shearer, who heads up the dried flower and seed product categories at the OCS, seeds are one of the most frequently searched products on their website. But because licensed producers have been focused on growing and selling flower rather than sharing their genetics, it’s been challenging to serve those consumers.
Given how the pandemic is keeping so many people constrained to their homes, Shearer says this could be the dawn of a new era of government-regulated cannabis seed options and home-growing enthusiasts.
“The hoarding of genetics is starting to lift a little bit,” he says. “And as a result, we’re seeing companies coming to the table with seeds. This is such an amazing turning point for this segment. The way I see it, this time next year we’ll have a much broader assortment that home growers will be excited to purchase and grow.”
But seeds on both the illicit and legal markets don’t come cheap. Four Bakerstreet seeds, for example, are $60 + tax at the OCS (which is about what Chris paid for his illicit seeds, although they can be found for less). However, if grown economically, savings can still add up significantly.
Of course, that all depends on a successful grow, which isn’t as simple as growing a tomato plant, Shearer says. There are a number of companies offering indoor grow gear like lights and tents; growing schools and workshops; and innumerable sources of nutrients and other types of gear for both indoor and outdoor purposes.