Ottawa Citizen

How legalized pot could have many heads spinning


“Stoners are nice,” said Samantha, a happy participan­t in Thursday’s 4-20 celebratio­ns on Parliament Hill. “Honestly, we’re like a great big family.”

So went the blissful murmurings among cannabis users at the annual homage. With 6,000 people toking on the lawn in front of Centre Block — the prime minister was not in town to bask in the glow of their happiness — you’d think recreation­al marijuana use was already legal.

It isn’t yet, and may not be even by July 1, 2018, the target date the Trudeau government has set. Barely a week after four ministers and a parliament­ary secretary were trotted out to introduce the pertinent legislatio­n, it’s becoming clear what a complicate­d business this is going to be.

“It’s massive,” says Trina Fraser, a partner at Brazeau Seller Law who specialize­s in the subject.

“It doesn’t really matter what area of law you practise, you’d better have some basic understand­ing of what’s going on with cannabis law in Canada.”

Police have already voiced sensible concern about driving under the influence, and medical experts are properly weighing in about weed’s effects on young brains.

But Fraser, who has a broadly positive view of the legalizati­on bill so far, anticipate­s much wider questions from her clients: restaurate­urs will wonder whether they can serve food with cannabis, for example, or even hold special cannabis nights. And what about the implicatio­ns in the workplace of recreation­al use? Employers and HR types will need a whole new level of training as rules around extracts and edibles are slowly clarified.

Then there are residentia­l landlords. Here, things could really get convoluted. As Fraser noted in a recent briefing note, Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, will allow the personal cultivatio­n of up to four plants per residence, either indoors or outdoors, with, so far, no limit on the amount of dried cannabis that can be stored in that residence.

It may be one thing to indulge in a little modest bud-tending in your own detached home or backyard, but if you own a rental property, or you are a renter, this could quickly become knotty.

Unless amended (which could certainly happen), the legislatio­n won’t require a tenant to let the landlord know he or she is running a mini-grow-op on the property.

So what? You don’t have to tell your landlord how much booze you have in your apartment either. But cannabis cultivatio­n requires artificial light, which means more than normal electricit­y needs.

Marijuana plants also like high humidity, so mould is a problem.

Flowering plants are pungent, so ventilatio­n is an issue.

Meanwhile, experts are warning landlords about how both banks and insurance companies may treat properties where cannabis is grown. The insurance industry is “notoriousl­y risk averse,” Fraser observes.

And chartered banks have been reluctant to deal even with licensed, legitimate medical cannabis manufactur­ers. To landlords, she writes: “Don’t be surprised if you are asked questions about home growing activities at mortgage renewal time.”

She’s urging landlords to ensure leases with new clients spell out the rules, including prohibitin­g growing weed if the landlord doesn’t want it there. She even suggests those with existing leases think about incentives to get their renters to write in new rules, before the legislatio­n passes. Perhaps this is much ado over little; most of us don’t plan to do indoor ganja gardening. But some folks will. There are more rental houses on your nice suburban street than you might think, and if you are a renter in a multi-unit building, you might prefer not to put up with the sharp smell from the apartment next door.

John Dickie of the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associatio­ns, wants the law to reflect a right of owners to know whether a renter is growing pot.

Our society’s strict respect of privacy boundaries should bend once recreation­al marijuana is legal, he says. “At least have the tenant tell the landlord.”

Other renters might appreciate that informatio­n too.

Stoners may be nice, but their soon-to-be-legal habit could bring unexpected hangovers for the rest of us. Christina Spencer is the Citizen’s editorial pages editor.

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