B.C. strata councils scramble to prepare for cannabis legalization

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Strata councils scramble to deal with legal pot
Strata councils across Canada are scrambling to write by-laws that will cover growing and smoking pot when it's legalized. Jill Bennett reports on what powers they have to enforce those rules – Oct 11, 2018

With less than a week until cannabis is legalized in Canada, strata councils across B.C. are rushing to implement new rules around what will and won’t be allowed in condo units.

Canadians will be allowed to grow up to four plants in their homes for personal use under the federal government’s legalization plan,

That’s raised plenty of concerns among some condo owners, who fear fire risks, mould and possible insurance rate hikes.

The other big concern is smoke.

Condo owner Naomi Baker and her husband have been smoke-proofing their unit for months in response to second-hand smoke from a downstairs resident they said is putting their health at risk.

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Baker has been pushing for legislation to ban smoking in any multi-unit buildings in the province, and said she’s even more concerned with pot set to be greenlit.

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“I have nothing against a smoker. I just don’t want it in my house,” she said.

“Whether you are smoking cigarettes or cannabis, if it comes into my suite then it’s my problem.”

There are about 30,000 strata councils in B.C., and lawyers that specialize in strata law have said they’re being bombarded with questions about how to handle legalization.

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Strata Lawyer Paul Mendes said when it comes to the smoke half of the equation, councils don’t necessarily need to enact smoking-specific bylaws, as most already have nuisance rules on the books.

“Excessive smells, something that is going to be so strong and pungent that an average person would say, ‘Oh my goodness that is a really strong smell, it almost makes it impossible to be in the unit,'” he said.

“That’s going to be a nuisance that’s covered off whether it’s cigarette smoke, marijuana smoke, cooking smells, garbage smells, excessive noise, those kinds of things.”

What’s more, many stratas in B.C. have had no-smoking bylaws in place for up to a decade, according to the Condominium Homeowners Association of BC.

However, when it comes to the question of homegrown ganja, some stratas are moving to ban the plants ahead of legalization — a step many landlords have also taken.

Mendes said even if those rules are enacted, it could be difficult to enforce them.

“There is nothing to require an owner to tell the strata that ‘I am growing four plants,'” he said.

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Mendes said it also remains to be seen whether any new bylaws regarding cannabis will stand up to a court challenge.

In the meantime, Baker said there’s a simple solution to her concerns.

“If there is a law in place that you can’t smoke in a multi-unit place because it affects other people then it becomes simple,” she said.

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