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The Legalization of Cannabis: Concerns Pile High for Condo & Strata Corporations

The legalization of cannabis has been one of the hottest topics in Canada since its proposal back in late 2012. Since then, the country has passed Bill C-45 otherwise know as “The Cannabis Act” and has been planning for the legalization of recreational use set for October 17th, 2018. This has left many companies, industries, and government factions scrambling to prepare, including condominium corporations. The multi-residential aspect of condominiums has presented a variety of questions on how corporations will effectively manage and adjust to recreational marijuana use.

The Issues at Hand

The new legislation will permit recreational use of cannabis, the ability to possess and share cannabis up to a certain legal amount, as well as grow a maximum of 4 plants per residence. The regulation of cannabis differs slightly from province to province which impacts the decisions condo boards will have to make across the country. In Alberta, laws will mirror tobacco use except for operating equipment (such as vehicles), which is the same for British Columbia however places where children are present are also prohibited. In contrast, Ontario is banning public smoking of cannabis altogether. The nature of this legislation has many condo boards in Canada racing to revise their bylaws before the legal date, as this CBC article explains. Many proactive condominiums in Canada are considering banning the substance altogether as issues of smoke in units, balconies, and common areas cannot be effectively contained and are bound to impact all others that call the property home via second hand smoke. However, smoke is not the only factor regarding this new legislation, as many condo boards are concerned with the overall issue of smell. As cultivation will soon be legal, concerns are growing about the implications of overall odor as well as excess unit moisture issues and increased utility consumption within the building. Smoking aside, growing cannabis plants in a condo residence is sure to be an issue, as possibilities of damage, voiding insurance, and decreased property value will need to be considered by all condo corporations. A recent article from the Edmonton Journal writes about a similar case in which a condo building was ordered to fix ventilation due to leaking tobacco smoke and the associated odor, costing somewhere in the hundred thousand dollar range.

Realistic Solutions?

The state of cannabis legalization has condos in a tight position, as outright bans on the substance from condo property is essentially the only way to mitigate disputes and potential property damage down the road. Or is it? Many condominiums can stand by previous legislation including the prohibition of consuming combustibles, which will include marijuana. This issue does become more convoluted when considering the medical necessities of some cannabis users and these possible restrictions. Potential human rights issues have been a topic of discussion lately throughout Canada regarding these medicinal users. Furthermore, there are a variety of difficulties and potential legal issues associated with banning as well as enforcing a ban on home grown cannabis as outlined here by a recent CBC news piece. There are multiple additional considerations and possible resolutions that may work for your condominium, and interested readers are urged to review their bylaws and continue to research the potential implications and solutions to help make this historic transition happen as smooth as it can for all residents of condominium properties.

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