Con­dos nip pot plants in the bud

On the cusp of legalization, hun­dreds of condo boards have banned res­i­dents from grow­ing cannabis in their units – even though it’s al­lowed

NOW Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - By SAMANTHA ED­WARDS saman­thae@nowtoronto.com | @SamEd­ward­sTO

When cannabis is le­gal­ized on Oc­to­ber 17, On­tar­i­ans will be able to grow up to four plants per house­hold. Ex­cept, maybe, if you live in a condo.

Across Toronto, hun­dreds of condo boards have banned res­i­dents from smok­ing and grow­ing cannabis in­side their in­di­vid­ual units and on bal­conies.

Deb­o­rah How­den, a lawyer spe­cial­iz­ing in con­do­minium real es­tate, says condo boards have en­acted these new rules over con­cerns of the pun­gent smell and po­ten­tial mould that could form as a re­sult of cannabis cul­ti­va­tion.

How­den notes that even though home grow­ing is le­gal un­der the Cannabis Act, condo cor­po­ra­tions are able to cre­ate their own rules that “pre­vent

un­rea­son­able in­ter­fer­ence with the use and en­joy­ing of [an owner’s] unit and com­mon el­e­ments,” such as a bal­cony.

“It’s re­ally not rel­e­vant whether the ac­tiv­ity is le­gal be­cause there are many ac­tiv­i­ties that are le­gal that condo cor­po­ra­tions may have a rule against,” How­den says. “Dis­play­ing ad­ver­tis­ing signs in your win­dows or hav­ing shaded win­dow cov­er­ings of a cer­tain colour is le­gal, but it may be against the rules of your cor­po­ra­tion.”

The ex­cep­tion is if some­one needs to grow cannabis for med­i­cal pur­poses, the condo board would have to ac­com­mo­date those res­i­dents on a caseby-case ba­sis un­der the Hu­man Rights Code.

Ex­hibit Res­i­dences, a lux­ury condo near Bloor and Av­enue, passed a new rule pro­hibit­ing smok­ing and grow­ing

cannabis at the end of Septem­ber. Ron Sch­midt, the pres­i­dent of the condo board, says al­though the board hadn’t re­ceived any com­plaints from res­i­dents about the smell of cannabis, they wanted to get ahead of legalization to pre­vent any po­ten­tial is­sues in the fu­ture.

In­deed, How­den says boards have rushed to en­act new rules prior to legalization to avoid grand­fa­ther­ing, which is when a per­son who en­gaged in a le­gal ac­tiv­ity prior to a new rule change would be en­ti­tled to con­tinue en­gag­ing in the now-pro­hib­ited ac­tiv­ity. So if a res­i­dent had al­ready started grow­ing cannabis af­ter Oc­to­ber 17 but prior to a new rule be­ing en­acted, they’d be ex­empt.

Al­though the fed­eral Cannabis Act per­mits home grow­ing, Man­i­toba and Que­bec have banned home cul­ti­va­tion al­to­gether. And some Cana­dian cities,

like Whistler, have cre­ated spe­cific rules stip­u­lat­ing plants must not be vis­i­ble to the pub­lic. No such rules ex­ist in Toronto, and since many Toron­to­ni­ans live in high rises with­out ac­cess to back­yards, indoor grow­ing is likely their only op­tion.

Bjorn Daw­son, the CEO of Grobo, a com­pact hy­dro­ponic indoor grow­ing sys­tem, says many condo boards are un­aware that smell-proof planters ex­ist. “Grobo is sealed to re­duce smell and we use car­bon fil­ters to scrub the air and re­move odours,” he says. “At the le­gal limit of grow­ing four plants, you won’t have any mould is­sues. It’s the same im­pact as hav­ing any four house­plants in your home.”

Be­cause of Grobo’s small foot­print – it’s about the size of a wa­ter cooler – many of their cus­tomers live in con­dos or apart­ments, and they use it to grow cannabis for ei­ther medic­i­nal or recre­ational pur­poses.

Ac­cord­ing to Sch­midt even though these grow­ing sys­tems sound im­pres­sive, if a condo cor­po­ra­tion were to al­low spe­cific indoor planters (like Grobo), it would be too labour in­ten­sive for the condo board or man­age­ment to reg­u­late us­age and con­trol what types of planters are per­mit­ted.

“When you start get­ting into the minu­tia – this thing is okay, that thing isn’t okay – it gets complicated very quickly, and so that’s why we did not go down that route,” says Sch­midt. “We don’t want to be Or­wellian here or turn it into a po­lice state. Peo­ple have a right to their pri­vacy in their home, as long as it doesn’t dis­turb some­one else. That’s the good neigh­bour ap­proach.”

Fed­eral rules per­mit home cul­ti­va­tion of pot, but condo boards are able to ban le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties that could dis­rupt neigh­bours.

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