VIEWPOINT: Smoking marijuana should be prohibited inside rental units

By Nicole Babb

With the legalization of marijuana around the corner, landlords in Ontario want the ability to change existing leases to prohibit tenants from smoking pot inside rental units.

Tenancy laws in the province make it illegal for landlords to change existing leases before they end, but an exception should be made for banning marijuana. Why? Because smoking up inside apartments may cause many problems.

Since marijuana is currently illegal, most landlords don’t have specific rules on smoking pot in their apartment buildings. Landlords will be allowed to ban the smoking of marijuana in rental units for new leases, but for existing tenants they won’t be able to regulate pot smoking until those leases end.

One of the main issues with allowing any kind of smoking inside apartment complexes is that second-hand smoke may get into other tenants’ units, increasing complaints to landlords and causing legitimate health concerns for residents.

A survey recently conducted by Corporation des Propriétaires Immobiliers du Québec, a landlord association in that province, found that the majority of its members are expecting complaints from tenants about marijuana smoke following legalization this summer.

Dan Henderson, president of DelSuites, a property management firm in Toronto, told CBC that smoking marijuana in apartments should be banned for a few reasons.

“It’s not the stigma (of marijuana use), it’s just the number of expenses to maintain the unit and the complaints landlords receive from the neighbours,” he said.

Tenants’ complaints about smoke leaking into their apartments would be well justified, especially considering the negative health impacts of second-hand smoke.

Last winter, Health Canada released a paper that recommended banning the smoking of tobacco inside multi-unit apartments because smoke can get into other units in the building. This should also apply to smoking marijuana.

Research conducted by the University of California found that second-hand marijuana smoke can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels.

Inhaling second-hand smoke may also irritate the lungs of people with pre-existing health problems, such as asthma.

Ottawa Public Health has made it clear that it is against smoking marijuana in public.

“OPH is committed to protecting the public from the second-hand effects of cannabis use,” the unit said in a recent statement to the Ottawa Citizen.

This prohibition should be extended to multi-unit apartments because non-smoking tenants shouldn’t have to deal with the impact of second-hand smoke in their own homes.

Along with health concerns, allowing tenants to smoke marijuana inside apartments will also be costly for landlords.

“It can cost $5,000-6,000 to get the smell of marijuana smoke out of apartment walls and floors,” Henderson told the CBC.

It’s unfair for landlords to bear the expense of property damage caused by smoking — whether tobacco or marijuana — especially when they don’t have the ability to change current lease agreements.

Banning pot smoking in apartments does raise the question of where smokers will be able to use marijuana, since the Ontario government plans to ban pot consumption in public spaces and workplaces.

Some people smoke marijuana for medical reasons, so it’s important to have at least a few locations where smoking is allowed.

The provincial government has proposed the creation of outdoor smoking areas at multi-unit apartments and is asking the public for feedback on that proposal.

This seems like a good solution, since smoking outside wouldn’t damage property or impact the health of other tenants.