“Grow Labs or Gardens?”
Dominic S. Cramer, Regional Coordinator, Canadians for Safe Access
Dominic Cramer is a Regional Coordinator for Canadians for Safe Access (“Grassroots, Action-Oriented Patients’ Rights”). He is also the Founder and Director of Toronto Hemp Company (THC – Est. 1994), Co-founder and Spokesperson for Toronto Compassion Centre (TCC – Est. 1997), Founder and Director of Sacred Seed (Est. 2002), and Founder and Director of The Herb Collective (Est. 2004).
While our leaders are making attempts to step up the efforts to combat “grow-ops,” it is sadly ironic that the very policies they are advocating have a direct causal connection to the hazards they are concerned about. Striving to “eradicate grow-ops” through increased enforcement and investigation, higher penalties, and mandatory minimums for cannabis cultivation will only serve to increase the value and potential profit for those willing to break the laws, and will also increase the danger and prevalence of criminal commercial enterprises.
Prohibition also has a negative impact on the level of knowledge and ability to share information about such important subjects as garden safety. In such a ridiculous situation as this one, in which ill Canadians are forced to either access the "black market" for their medicine, or struggle to produce their own, a little knowledge can go a long way.
Gardening is by nature a peaceful activity and it is the prohibition that results in the harmful effects such as those caused by the involvement of ruthless criminals and the necessity for clandestine activity. Most cannabis cultivators are kind and otherwise law-abiding people, and the true criminals are only a very small minority who wouldn’t be interested in this plant were it not for the inflated profit potential created by prohibition.
We do not condone any theft of electricity and know that the majority of gardeners pay for the electricity they consume. The illegal bypassing of hydro meters is a dangerous, immoral and uncommon activity that would not be an issue if growers didn't have to hide their energy consumption for fear of detection.
We are also strongly against any form of booby-trap or the use of illegal firearms to protect gardens. These too are very rare and exaggerated activities. In fact, statistics show that there are fewer weapons in homes containing cannabis gardens than there are in residences without.
There can be hazards involved with indoor gardening. The risk of fire, water damage, electrical shock and chemical poisoning must be considered and addressed by those who choose to "grow their own." Often, the least understood and most dangerous hazards are also the easiest to avoid.
-High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights are CSA approved for indoor garden use and by following a few rules can be used safely.
Indoor gardeners should be informed to:
-stay within recommended safe ampere loads for circuit breakers and fuses (no more than 80% of available amps)
-use Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) outlets or GFI circuit breakers wherever electricity is used in proximity to water to prevent shocks and short circuits.
-keep HID ballasts and other electrical components in a dry place, raised up off the floor on a stable, secure and heat resistant surface.
-regularly inspect their entire electrical system (looking for overheated wires, loose connections, arcing burns…). If there are any signs of failure in any components (flickering, buzzing, heat, smell, etc.) they must be immediately disconnected and professionally serviced or replaced.
Perhaps the most common (and avoidable) cause of fire in a garden is "arcing", which occurs when current flows through an improper electrical connection, sparking from one contact to another. This can heat up the fixture, eventually causing it to break, explode or melt and allowing the arcing or super-heated pieces to ignite nearby flammable material. Gardeners must ensure that any High Intensity Discharge (H.I.D. - e.g. High Pressure Sodium or Metal Halide) lamp (bulb) being installed is screwed in properly, making good contact with the little metal tab in the light fixture's socket. The tab may have been pushed in further by the last bulb that was used, and bulb bases are not always identical - some may screw deeper into the socket than others. Changing the position of this tab itself can be hazardous immediately and/or in the long term, and is not recommended for anyone who is not professionally trained. Instead of bending the tab themselves, gardeners who notice a malfunction or are otherwise concerned about a less than perfect contact in their electrical setup are recommended to either have their equipment professionally inspected and adjusted, or purchase a new one. They're not very costly and the peace of mind's well worth it! Many components of a grow room should be replaced periodically to prevent not only safety related problems but health and production concerns.
Generally there will be some period of warning before a catastrophic failure. Any equipment that produces an unusual buzzing, flickering, smell or heat should be disconnected and serviced immediately (H.I.D. ballasts do normally emit a quiet and steady buzz, they do get warm, and the lamp may flicker a bit while the unit is warming up).
-Obviously, growers should be careful to avoid being burned by hot bulbs.
-Gardens should be arranged in such a way that any spills or floods will be safely contained.
NUTRIENTS AND OTHER ADDITIVES
All garden supplies should be stored safely and securely.
In hydroponics, plant foods are known as nutrients and are usually found in a liquid or powdered form. Hydroponic nutrients are very safe and pose little risk.
Gardeners should use high-quality and/or organic fertilizers specifically designed for the type of gardening they are practicing, and organic pest control whenever possible. They should avoid the use of, and exposure to, any toxic chemicals both through the growing process and in the finished product (including systemic pesticides).
Water conditioners are used to bring local tap water to the correct PH to facilitate an optimum growing environment for the plants root system. No specialized training is necessary to handle PH up or PH down, just common sense and an ability to follow the instructions on the bottles. Many people safely use stronger solutions to adjust the PH of their swimming pools or hot tubs.
Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is also used in used to disinfect water systems, is no more dangerous than bleach and quickly breaks down into simple water and oxygen.
All liquid products should be stored in a secure location away from heat, light and most importantly electricity. Secure storage will also prevent accidents involving children and pets.
The sensational pictures of police wearing full body protective gear while tearing apart a garden give the public the impression that the same products found in the gardening section of the Home Depot that can be purchased by any minor, are too dangerous for the highly trained police force to handle!
Two types of compressed gas are occasionally associated with an indoor garden. The first being carbon dioxide (CO2). This is the same bottled CO2 found in all fountain pop dispensers. The second being propane. The propane is burned in a CO2 generator, a device designed to burn propane very efficiently maximizing CO2 production (a product of combustion) while minimizing heat output and producing NO carbon monoxide (CO).
Carbon dioxide is added to maximize the yield for the indoor garden because rapidly growing plants can use all of the available CO2 in an enclosed space through photosynthesis. CO2 can displace oxygen in a confined space so care must be taken to use CO2 as directed. CO2 dissipates quickly with proper airflow. Problems with oxygen displacement are unlikely because both the ventilation system and the CO2 system would have to fail simultaneously (ventilation off/CO2 stuck on).
Tanks of compressed gas should be stored securely in an upright position and protected from extremes of temperature.
Mold is unlikely to occur in an indoor garden if the gardener takes adequate measures.
-Paint the growing area with a kitchen and bathroom paint, which contains fungus inhibitors
-Ensure that moisture does not build up by venting properly. Ventilation fans can easily be set to maintain a safe moisture level (40-60%).
-Dehumidifiers can be used if venting alone is not sufficient.
-Heaters set to work in dark cycles will prevent water from condensing when the lights go off and the temperature drops.
-A separate and independent hygrometer should be used to check if moisture control measures are effective and consistent.