Planning to grow legal pot? Check real estate rules first

A house in Vancouver is offered for sale in this file image.
A house in Vancouver is offered for sale in this file image. THE CANADIAN PRESS

If Canada follows the path of most U.S. states that have legalized marijuana, we’ll be allowed to grow a moderate number of plants at home.

The upside is a plentiful supply of cheap marijuana; the downsides are the space requirements, the plants’ fussy need for just the right amount of light, water and fertilizer, higher power bills — and the strong, pervasive smell.

Another potentially delicate problem is selling your house.

READ: Smelly, fussy, humid: Why you may not want to grow your own legal pot

As the seller, how much do you have to disclose about the marijuana plants that you whisked out of sight for the open house? Different provinces have different rules.

The Real Estate Council of British Columbia recommends that selling agents encourage their clients to disclose in writing that a property has been used to grow pot, even if the grow was one of the legal and quite small ones that medical marijuana users are allowed.

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“While marijuana for medical purposes may be grown legally with the necessary licence, the possibility remains that its growth could result in a property defect,” spokesperson Marilee Peters wrote in an email.

“If a property has been used for activities such as a marijuana grow-op and the property has not been properly restored, a material latent defect may exist in the form of toxic hazards that cannot be discovered on a reasonable examination of the property.”

READ: Why home marijuana cultivation will be a headache for regulators

What might a legal home grow look like?

Colorado allows residents to grow up to six marijuana plants each, of which half can be flowering at any given time. There is no state-level restriction on the total number of plants. Unless local bylaws ban it (some do), a household of four adults can legally grow two dozen marijuana plants.

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And those plants can be huge. Home growers in states like Oregon and Colorado have been known to grow enormous plants to maximize production within the rules.

So, depending on what Canada’s rules turn out to be, Canadians could be able to run a fairly serious home grow op while also staying completely on the right side of the law.

WATCH: Residents in northeast Edmonton want a legal marijuana grow operation to leave their neighbourhood. But as Laurel Clark reports, they have no choice but to put up with it until at least April.

As recently as 2010, Toronto police were finding over 200 grow operations a year. They varied a lot in size, from a dozen plants to thousands. Much of the marijuana produced was intended for export to the United States, so Canadian production fell off as some U.S. states passed more tolerant laws.

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Some houses used for large grow operations were damaged beyond repair. Growers crammed hundreds of plants into every available corner, cut through joists, created high-voltage wiring systems that bypassed electrical meters and left mould and pesticide residues in their wake. Some houses damaged by marijuana grows were passed on to unsuspecting buyers.

READ: Toronto’s vanishing grow-ops fall victim to pot economics

In Ontario, a seller is free not to mention having grown marijuana, so long as a grow didn’t cause damage that could endanger the buyer.

“The only time when the seller would be obliged to actually disclose something is if the defect in the physical property would place the future occupants at risk, if it’s an inherently dangerous property, or that it’s going to make the home uninhabitable due to problems,” explained Kelvin Kucey of the Real Estate Council of Ontario.

“The courts have consistently said that if there’s not a physical defect that’s going to impact on the habitability of the home or present an inherent danger, like if you know you have radioactive waste in your back yard.”

“If it’s a small-scale grow op, that doesn’t materialize, because there’s no damage to the property.”

WATCH: Toronto landlord fights tenants over medical marijuana grow op – tenants moved out and he’s stuck with hefty cleanup bill

On the other hand, it would be wise to get rid of the plants, legal or not, before the house is shown.

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“You’d want to make your house as saleable as possible, so you would want to remove those things, just like you’d want to remove any kind of arguably offensive material in the home – you can do a shopping list of what other people may find offensive. So you’re not limiting your market to people who are thinking of having their own home grow op.”

A federal government task force asked to study the details of what legal marijuana would look like in Canada delivered its long-awaited report Wednesday. It will be made public in mid-December.

One of the issues it was studying was whether to allow home production, and if so, under what rules.

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