Recreational marijuana – coming to a unit near you

May 23rd, 2017 by Lauren Blumas

The federal government has announced its plans to legalize recreational marijuana. In addition to legalizing possession of cannabis for recreational purposes ‑ we’ve long had a regime for legal possession of medical cannabis ‑  the proposal allows households to grow up to four marijuana plants under 100 cm. What will legalization mean for rental and co‑op housing?

As we all know, the current legal status and approach to recreational marijuana use by law enforcement has not deterred tenants and co‑op members from smoking it in their units. I’d venture to guess that legalization won’t cause a dramatic increase in those that smoke marijuana in their homes either. For most housing providers, the informal means used to address disputes about recreational marijuana use will probably continue to be as effective.

However, whether recreational or not, there is a trend towards smoke‑free housing as a public health tool (particularly in the social housing setting) and with recreational marijuana legal, housing providers will have fewer grounds to address second‑hand smoke related to marijuana use at the LTB. They’ll have an even harder time in the absence of a no‑smoking policy which does not address marijuana smoke. If you haven’t yet considered introducing a no‑smoking policy, now might be the time to head off conflict on the use of recreational marijuana.

The discussion around marijuana smoke in housing is not new. Perhaps the larger concern for landlords is the proposed allowance for growing. I’m hearing a lot of concern from our clients about the risks of tenants and members growing marijuana in their units. Again and again clients fear increased risk of fire and mould, sky‑rocketing electricity costs, and increased insurance premiums. Some experts have said that the perceived risk is exaggerated, but there is good reason to believe that insurance companies will continue to take a hard‑line approach that is not favourable to housing providers. To benefit from coverage, it’s rumoured that housing providers will be required to disclose knowledge of tenants or members growing even small quantities of marijuana. Depending on the insurer, premiums may increase or worse, coverage may be cancelled all together.

With legalization on the horizon, it’s time to start gathering the facts. That means discussing the premiums and coverage with insurers and the risks with public health and fire services, and your lawyer. Once you have the facts, you might then consider revisiting your leases/occupancy agreement and policies to address legitimate risks.

I’m looking forward to co‑presenting with Andrew Noble of Smoke‑Free Ontario about issues related to smoking – tobacco and marijuana – at the Co‑operative Housing Federation of Canada’s AGM in Niagara Falls in early June. If you’re a co‑oper attending, please join me.

Filed in: Co-operative Law, Housing

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