Ottawa Citizen

Many questions still to be answered regarding proposed marijuana laws


Q: I own a small rental building in Ottawa. I understand that the federal government is legalizing marijuana. I don’t want tenants smoking or growing marijuana in my building, particular­ly around units where young families live. What can I do?

A: How the marijuana laws will ultimately shake out is not clear. Parliament still needs to debate and vote on the government’s bill before it will become the new law. Members of the public and interest groups may still try to influence the government and members of Parliament.

Moreover, the federal government addresses what is or is not a crime. The provinces and the municipali­ties can also implement restrictio­ns on marijuana growing and use.

For adults, the federal government’s bill would make possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana for personal use no longer a crime. The bill sets a minimum age of 18 years for legal possession, but will allow the provinces to choose a higher age, such as 19, which is the drinking age in Ontario. For people under the age set by the province, the possession of up to five grams of marijuana will still be an offence, but not a crime.

However, the province makes landlord and tenant law, and much of health law. The province currently prohibits tobacco smoking in the common areas of apartment buildings. A new provincial law will likely ban marijuana smoking in the common areas of apartment buildings. That should prevent people from smoking “around” units where young families live.

Under the current landlord and tenant law, new leases can certainly ban tobacco smoking or marijuana smoking (or both) in rental units. Under most leases reasonable rules can be made, which can include prohibitin­g smoking. The province may make it easier for landlords to enforce no-smoking rules, for both tobacco and marijuana.

You also ask about growing marijuana. Currently, unless a person has a federal medical certificat­e to do so, growing marijuana is a crime, and ground for eviction. For adults, the federal government’s bill would make growing up to four marijuana plants for personal use no longer a crime in any dwelling.

Even if the legislatio­n is enacted in its present form, landlords could prohibit marijuana growing in their buildings in their leases, or in rules they make under existing leases. Depending on what the province does with the Residentia­l Tenancies Act, it may be easy or difficult for a landlord to enforce a ban on marijuana growing.

In principle, the City of Ottawa could step in as well. Under land use or planning law the city could ban marijuana growing in certain areas or in buildings of certain sizes, such as apartment buildings

Landlords are concerned about electrical safety if even small marijuana grow ops use grow lamps. Many apartment buildings were built decades ago, and the current use of electronic­s pushes their electrical systems to the limit before any grow lamps are added. Landlords are also concerned about humidity since marijuana plants like higher humidity than is good for people or for buildings, and marijuana plants emit much more moisture than ordinary house plants. They also emit a strong and unpleasant smell while they are flowering.

For all those reasons landlords may want prohibit marijuana growing in their buildings.

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