Federal legislation to legalize recreational marijuana is expected to allow Canadians to grow up to four plants at home, but B.C. landlords – wary of safety hazards, damage and liability – hope to nip those concerns in the bud by adding restrictions into rental agreements on grow-ops.
Ottawa signalled this weekend that it expects to introduce legislation before April 20 – a day cannabis is celebrated around the world – and the recreational use of the drug would reportedly be legalized by July 1, 2018. A federal task force struck to inform the government's approach to legalization made 80 recommendations, including that Canadians be allowed to grow up to four plants per residence.
But B.C. landlords say that growing marijuana – particularly in a multiunit building – carries more risks than smoking it. Potential dangers include fire hazards from high-wattage lamps; mould growth from higher temperatures and humidity; and offensive smells, particularly during the flowering and drying phases.
David Hutniak, chief executive of the advocacy group Landlord BC, said such issues could result in the cancellation of a building's insurance or the pulling of its mortgage.
It's already become a source of conflict for medical-marijuana patients, who aren't required to inform their landlords that they are licensed by Health Canada to grow their own cannabis. About 30,000 people across Canada currently have permits to grow marijuana for medical use.
Mr. Hutniak thinks landlords will have more flexibility when it comes to recreational marijuana.
"It's a tough one," Mr. Hutniak said. "[Medical marijuana] is a therapy that some people need, but we really struggle with the fact that they can start a little grow-op in a rented premises. Legalization will make it more readily available. Our hope is that people won't have to grow their own, or at least not in a rented premises, I guess."
Mr. Hutniak said his association will be modifying its tenancy agreements to include language regarding marijuana, which will be restricted like pets. As well, the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations, of which he is the board chair, last month submitted to Health Canada a 10-page document outlining concerns and recommendations relating to marijuana legalization. It has not received a response.
Darryl Spencer, a landlord in Kamloops, rented the downstairs suite of a home to a tenant in December, 2015. Investigating a complaint from an upstairs tenant the following September, he learned the downstairs tenant held a medical-marijuana licence and was growing pot in his suite.
In an inspection, Mr. Spencer discovered 60 plants growing in a tented enclosure, 400-watt lights hanging from the rafters and several fans blowing. The upstairs neighbour complained of breakers going off and heat coming through the walls.
When the landlord informed his insurance company, his insurance was promptly cancelled.
Under federal regulations introduced last August, medical-marijuana licence holders are not required to notify or seek the consent of their landlords, "as such requirements would likely infringe on their right to reasonable access to cannabis for medical purposes," according to Health Canada.
Mr. Spencer says he has no problem with people growing and using marijuana – he supports legalization – but says that tenants should be required to seek permission from their landlords, who should then be allowed to refuse.
"What's happening now is landlords that are taking on tenants are beefing up their tenancy agreements, saying no smoking, no marijuana growing – all those things in there," he said. "The problem and the conversation right now is that even if you have that in your agreement, you may not be able to enforce it."
Landlord BC is advising members who are concerned about the legality of grow-operations in suites – medical now, or recreational in the future – to check the authenticity of medical-marijuana licences and investigate whether applicable rules are being followed.
Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang, a point person on the city's cannabis issues, said the city has "made it loud and clear" that if it is expected to enforce any new marijuana-related rules, the federal government must provide all necessary resources.
"We will not accept any downloads from the province or the federal government on this file," he said. "If you want our cops to go in and check houses, then you better provide money because we're not going to be raising property taxes to pay for that."