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Within three weeks, Canadian adults will be granted the legal right to smoke pot in the privacy of their own homes, but tenants of rental properties across the country are now discovering that they may be prevented from embracing this new freedom. Landlords are allowed to restrict or prohibit cannabis use within their properties, potentially leaving millions of Canadians with no legal place to light up.
Across the country, landlords are now being forced to consider new rules that will balance the rights of newly-legal cannabis users with other tenants' rights to live in a smoke-free environment. “I think it’s going to take years of conversations, and challenges,” Andrew Macallum, president of the Waterloo Regional Apartment Management Association, said to the Toronto Star. “The board is already overwhelmed with cases and challenges. These marijuana challenges are likely going to inundate the board.”
As Canadian cannabis legalization draws nearer, many building owners are finding themselves inundated with similar challenges. Adele Schroder, a 38-year-old tenant of Applewood Place, a condo building in Mississauga, told CityNews that she has an extreme allergy to pot smoke, which is being triggered by her neighbors' increasingly brazen blazing. “They no longer smoke near the outside vents or put towels under their doors,” she said. “Pot smoke is in the hallways a couple times a week.”
David LaFayette, president of the Applewood Place Condo Board, told CityNews that the board “may have to ban smoking in certain areas around this lady and if that doesn’t work then unfortunately the courts will get involved.” Denise Lash, the condo's attorney, said that she thinks “the board is weighing everyone’s interests. When you are dealing with the human rights code and somebody who has a medical reason they really need to focus on that. There is tremendous liability here if something happens to Adele.”
Residents of canna-legal states in the U.S. are already quite familiar with the struggles that Canadian renters are facing. In states like California, adults are also allowed to smoke in private, but local laws are leaving renters and tourists without a place where they can legally partake. The vast majority of apartment leases explicitly ban residents from using marijuana, even where state laws have legalized adult use. As a result, millions of residents of major cities like Los Angeles are practically prohibited from smoking weed in private, despite legally being allowed to do so.
Americans living in public housing are similarly banned from lighting up indoors, and any violation of these policies can result in eviction. Regardless of state legality, cannabis is still a federally-prohibited drug, and current U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development policy bans all residents of public housing from using or possessing marijuana in any form.
This summer, Rep. Eleanor Holmes proposed a bill that would end this prohibition, allowing residents of public housing to avail themselves of state-legal cannabis without fear of eviction, but the bill is still currently stuck in a House committee.