Canada's Condominium Magazine
This is part 3 of a 3-part series on the impact of the Cannabis Act for condominium owners, tenants and managers.
The Cannabis Act creates a strict legal framework for controlling the production, possession, and distribution of marijuana. If the bill is passed, then Canadians will be able to grow marijuana plants in their homes. This means that condo owners will need to update their rules and expand upon them.
The bill does allow provinces and territories to set their own limits, reducing the height and mount but not increasing them. However, a growing number of people are concerned over the impact the new law will have on the residents, those who smoke as well as those who do not. It is easy to see why it may create friction amongst neighbours who are at odds over the use of cannabis.
The Canadian Federation of Apartment Association raised concerns over the production of marijuana in buildings with multiple units such as condos and apartments. Concerns centered around damages that might be caused due to the smoke and the growing of cannabis in the buildings, as well as increased fire hazards. Another concern raised was a disproportionate use of utilities that stem from growing the plants, though that is true when growing any plants.
Condo owners are concerned over potential loss in revenue and damages to units, while residents are concerned over their safety and well-being due to being around smoke and having neighbours distribute marijuana nearby. Further issues arise when marijuana is used or produced in harmful ways.
Activities that can cause problems include:
- Causing damages to the units or surrounding areas
- Creating health risks
- Overloading electrical services
- Creating fire hazards
- Violating by-laws
- Emitting noxious fumes
- Attracting crime to the vicinity
- Discharging poisonous chemicals
- Being irresponsible in the handling and distributing of substances
- Impaired Driving
Tools for handling the new legislation in condos
Though the concerns are certainly founded, condo boards and owners do have a few tools at their disposal in the even that legislation is passed.
Most condos have regulations regarding nuisances such as sounds and smells, so the production and use of cannabis may apply. Cannabis produces smoke that is far more potent than that of tobacco. It can cause nausea amongst those around the smoker; and tenants, particularly families with children, will not be pleased at the prospect of sharing a building with those who grow or smoke it. However, the use of cannabis in other forms, such as edibles, will not apply, as long as they are not being distributed 1) to minors or 2) to anyone without their knowledge or consent.
Condos also have strict rules regarding fire hazards. If a tenant or guest is performing any activity that is deemed a potential hazard, the condo board, owner, and manager can issue a fine or some other penalty. Furthermore, condos can restrict the use of cannabis anywhere on the grounds other than in the user’s own unit.
However, if users are careful, then the production and use of marijuana may not be extreme enough to fall under nuisance in a way that exceed what is reasonably expected when living in such close quarters. Furthermore, a condo’s owner may be torn between a tenant who is not conducting business or performing any activity outside of the law or the condo’s rules and a tenant who is not happy about living next door to somebody who is producing cannabis. A nauseating smell that has lingering effects is one thing. A simple difference of opinion is another one entirely.
A condo owner certainly has the right to increase restrictions or even to outright ban the production and use of cannabis, though he or she may not find this a desirable option if a large number of residents are users who opt to move elsewhere. Alternately, having the option of a marijuana-free condo may be more appealing to residents who do not smoke, so the odds are in favor of the loss-to-gain ratio evening out, as long as other condos in the area do not follow suit.
Education is a powerful tool
Another method for tackling the new legislation in your condo may include increasing education amongst residences. Placing flyers containing information on the health effects of cannabis can be helpful for both sides of the debate. Cannabis has medicinal properties that are beneficial in the treatment of some diseases and illnesses. However, the smoke is not healthy for anyone, and smoking (as previously mentioned) is a fire hazard, especially indoors. Consuming them in ways other than smoking will have the same effect on the user in terms of confusion, impaired judgment and movements, etc.
However, it eliminates further damage caused by the smoke itself, while also eliminating any risks to those around the user, except in the instance of impaired judgment. In that respect, strict laws are in place regarding impaired driving and other offences caused by the use of drugs and alcohol.
Condo owners can also send out memos announcing their new regulations, as well as reminding residents that they are financially and legally responsible for any and all damages resulting from the production, use, and distribution of cannabis. Lingering smells are problematic, and damages to furniture, rugs, paint, etc. can be costly. If edibles are brought to a party and someone else (especially a child) accidentally consumes them, the person who brought them will be liable for that as well. Reminders such as these may not completely sway tenants from using cannabis, but it will at least make them more cautious when doing so.
The time to act is now
You may think that you have time to ponder over your actions and decide whether you want to implement new rules or simply adhere to the Cannabis Act as written. However, with such a tight deadline, it may be in the best interest of your condo and its residents to act now. Setting rules and limits now will allow them to be grandfathered in, making them easier to defend against the new legislation.
Regardless of the rules implemented within a condo, accommodations will remain necessary in cases of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. However, the rules that are in place for other uses are up to the condo board and owner once the bill is passed. Until then, recreational use is prohibited across the country.
Part 1 of this series Cannabis Act and Condominiums: Everything you need to know about the Cannabis Act and What it means for you and your condo>>