Canada became the largest country in the world to
legalize recreational cannabis on October 17, 2018.
Mike Farnsworth, British Columbia’s minister of public safety,
called the development “the largest public policy shift this country has experienced in the past five decades.” Legalization will
have wide-ranging effects on many aspects of Canadian society,
including property management and the way Canadians live.
While cannabis use in living spaces is by no means a new phenomenon, many are concerned that with legalization, residents
may now feel they are entitled to smoke or grow cannabis in
their units, and this could have an adverse impact on neighbors.
As the policy goes into effect, property managers will play an
important role in balancing individual rights with the regulations that help maintain community.
NEED FOR NEW POLICIES
According to an IREM Member in Manitoba, the largest takeaway from legalization is that “it’s causing quite a bit of work.”
Management has had to develop and implement new rules
governing living arrangements and then help enforce them.
“We’re ensuring that we have tenant educational forums,” the
member said. “Lots of signage in the building. Lots of tenant
meetings. We currently have additional staff to work on a
one-on-one basis with tenants to try and ensure ongoing
successful tenancy and a continued safe tenancy in the
building, and to create a safe work place for staff.”
The key question for condominium and strata corpo-
rations is whether they have appropriate provisions in
place in their governing documents to deal with canna-
bis. In the lead-up to legalization, many condominium
corporations in Ontario took the opportunity to address
both tobacco and cannabis smoking, with many moving
to make their buildings entirely smoke-free. Most have
also chosen to ban cannabis growing. Others have taken a
more hands-off approach and have passed rules only with
respect to issues such as smoking cannabis in common areas
and growing more plants than are permitted by law.
Even for those corporations which have not updated their
governing documents, most already have an “anti-nuisance”
provision that can be enforced in the event a resident’s cannabis use causes a problem for neighbors. Condominium lawyers
prefer buildings with more specific rules so that residents have
a clear understanding of their legal obligations, though in many
cases the existing anti-nuisance provisions are sufficient.
Because cannabis laws vary by province, property managers
will have to pay close attention to local regulations. For example, most provinces are allowing Canadians to grow four plants,
but Manitoba prohibits growing cannabis entirely. Saskatchewan has a zero-tolerance policy for driving while high, and
public smoking is strictly prohibited in New Brunswick.
In Ontario, condominium corporations are not landlords and
can pass rules completely banning all smoking in their buildings. Many tenants who rent in these condominiums, however,
misunderstand this point and believe that, because a landlord
cannot prohibit smoking if it was not previously agreed to in
their lease, the condominium’s rules do not apply. This sometimes leads tenants into legal jeopardy.
Social housing, on the other hand, has had to rely on provincial law. Many provinces have allowed landlords to amend leases
to address cannabis, but the Ontario government has no immediate plans to change landlord/tenant laws to allow for a ban.
The majority of tenants in social housing typically rent long-term, with apartments rarely turning over (sometimes as low
as 1 to 2 percent of a building), which raises the concern that it
could take many years to ensure all units have the new cannabis
prohibitions in place. This could also be true in older buildings
where many leases were signed decades ago.
In addition, there may be cases where provincial human
rights codes, which is quasi-constitutional legislation, may override a condominium’s governing documents. As a result, if a
Cannabis in Canada
THE IMPLICATIONS OF LEGALIZATION ON PROPERTY
By Robert Buckler, Joel Berkovitz
and Derek Brovold