As the old saying goes, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
Well, as far as this province’s marijuana legislation goes, the proof maybe be in the smoking — more to the point, the proof will be in who can use cannabis, and who can’t. Especially when it comes to smoking it.
While four pieces of provincial legislation that set the rules for cannabis use in this province (after federal legislation legalizes it) passed through the House of Assembly in mere moments, the problems that may stem from the new legislation are legion.
And nowhere are they more likely to crop up than in rental homes and apartments.
That’s because the question of whether smoking cannabis will be allowed in rentals has been, essentially, thrown back to landlords. The province’s position seems to be that landlords will be able to forbid marijuana use in their units — and perhaps the growing of marijuana as well — by giving notice of an impending change in terms three months before a unit comes up for lease renewal. (In cases where there isn’t a lease in place, a landlord will have to give three months’ notice of a change of terms for the rental.)
There are already considerable problems with smoking marijuana in apartment-like situations. I spoke to one condominium owner who was under a constant onslaught of weed smoke from another unit long before legalization was approaching. The solution was as bad as the problem: noisy airhandling equipment that was installed to exhaust smoke from the offending unit. The smell has lessened, but the noise is now a constant.
And it’s not just smoking weed; it may involving growing weed as well. Landlords might not want the problems that could come along with growing weed plants — high humidity and strong smells that might affect a unit’s future rentability, and might also make their way into other units due to shared air systems.
Putting the ball squarely in the landlord’s court creates a bunch of problems. First, what happens during the three-month period that it takes to renegotiate a month-to-month lease? And what about newly signed fixed term leases? Will landlords have to allow weed smoking until the next renewal?
There are concerns about the effects on other tenants, and the effects on property as well.
You can make the argument that cigarette smoking is already banned in many apartment units, but the clear difference is that, if you’re a smoker in a nonsmoking apartment, you can go outside and smoke your cigarette. The law that provincial government just passed bans marijuana smoking in all public places.
Then, there’s insurance. What are insurance companies going to say about coverage for houses with marijuana plants, or landlords whose premises are damaged as a result of growing or smoking marijuana? Right now, many landlord insurance policies specifically void coverage for damage as a result of drug use — will that change when weed is legal? Will there be additional costs for landlords who allow marijuana use?
The legislation already presents some interesting other problems — it refers to what is allowed in a “dwelling house” without even defining what a “dwelling house” is, and forbids smoking weed in public places. Their definition is: “‘public place’ includes any place to which the public has access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied or whether a fee is charged.” That’s a very broad definition; where it has been used in law before, courts like the Supreme Court of Canada have found that public places essentially end at the exterior four walls of your home.
Does that mean, then, that if you are in an apartment that bans marijuana smoking, you actually can’t smoke marijuana anywhere? That seems like a curious world: marijuana for some, but not for all.
Many of these issues may be addressed when the other shoe drops on this province’s marijuana rules. The cabinet has yet to set regulations under the act — but while the regulations will provide some clarity, you can be sure that the issues the province hasn’t addressed are going to affect many, many people, marijuana users and non-users alike. My belief?
Maybe as early as November, when the House of Assembly is back in session, an act will be brought in to address errors and omissions in the existing Cannabis Act. Maybe it won’t be going back to the drawing board, but it will certainly a chance for the government to properly finish their legislative homework. In other words, make a better pudding.
Who will be able to use cannabis, and who won’t?