Cannabis co­nun­drum

Advertiser (Grand Falls) - - Front Page - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 39 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@thetele­gram.com — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

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?

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