Opinion: The solution to smoking weed in condos is basic consideration, not banning it

Jul 24 2018, 12:10 pm

Toronto’s existing marijuana laws will go up in smoke as of October 17 when weed (finally) becomes legal in Canada.

While the city’s stoner set and recreational users have rejoiced at Canada’s coming of age with respect to weed, not everyone is as pleased. Some don’t want the pungent smelling plant – something still considered a drug to a lot of people – and its smoke anywhere near them or their living quarters, whether it’s legal or not.

Once marijuana does become legal, you will technically only be able to smoke it on private property or in a private residence in Toronto – weed smokers won’t be allowed to freely spark a joint just anywhere. For many cannabis consumers, however, the best place to get stoned is in their own home, from the comfort of their couch, balcony, or backyard (and, likely, with snacks within reach).

But if your condo board isn’t full of weed fans and acts quickly, you may not technically be able to do so (that is, unless you’re sneaky and strategic about it). And that’s a problem.

ban smoking

Condo boards across Canada are trying to ban smoking indoors ahead of cannabis legalization (kryzhov/Shutterstock)

Recently, some Toronto condo boards have debated trying to ban weed on their properties before it becomes legal. They have sent letters and Facebook polls to condo owners asking their thoughts on forbidding cannabis on building property. Some have already banned it, with exceptions for those with medical needs and documentation to prove it. The good news for pot smokers is that landlords can’t change a lease until a tenant has moved out; they are legally not allowed to implement no-smoking rules if they do not currently exist.

Currently, Ontario has not updated its rental laws to reflect the legalization of cannabis – each province will have its own rules – but the regulations currently state that whether renters can smoke cigarettes in their home depends on your building’s rules or your lease agreement.

As most of us are now aware, marijuana has real medicinal benefits and is used to treat everything from the side effects of chemo, to chronic pain and anxiety. And there’s no way that someone’s use of medicine should be restricted. But even if you’re simply a recreational user (as opposed to a medicinal user) – say on a lazy winter Sunday or after a long day at the office – do landlords and condo boards have a right to tell people how to live in their own home? Personally, I don’t think so.

The impossible-to-ignore smell of weed is definitely an offensive one to some, and something that parents may not want to explain to their young children. It’s something your retiree neighbours may not want to smell when having a dinner the next terrace over. Fair. But cigars and cigarettes are equally as offensive smelling to many.

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The naysayers point to things like the effects of second-hand weed smoke on other residents. Recent research from the University of Calgary revealed that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is detectable in the body after as little as 15 minutes of direct exposure, even if the person isn’t actively smoking it. But this is only when the subject was in the same poorly ventilated room as the smoker – not a few doors down the hall or a couple of balconies away.

Condo owner or apartment renter, I can definitely understand banning weed smoking in common areas like rooftop terraces and in front of the building, but that’s a different story from regulating what goes on – legally – within someone’s home.

For renters, marijuana smoke will produce minimal damage to a property. The scent is strong, but it doesn’t stick around the way cigarette smoke does. However, there are concerns when it comes to growing weed once it is legalized, complete with the allowance of four plants per household. But even four plants – or six if you’re a medical user – can do damage to condo units with moisture and mould. Admittedly, if an owner wants to take such a risk with their own place, that’s one thing. To cause damage to someone’s property for a renter, that’s another. For that reason, I more so can understand landlord restrictions when it comes to growing.

But not smoking.

It’s time to adapt to the fact that Canada has embraced marijuana and that the long-held stigmas and stereotypes associated with it are dated and eroding. According to new data from Environics Analytics, Torontonians spark up the equivalent of 141.7 million joints a year. Dispensaries now count everyone from students and professors to parents and business people as regular customers.



Just as condo owners – many of whom dropped ridiculous amounts of cash on their homes – have the right to enjoy their property, weed smokers have the right to smoke their weed. The same rules that apply to cigarettes should apply.

Instead of bylaws, the hope is that common sense and consideration governs the discretion when it comes to sparking a joint, just as it does for most people when lighting a cigarette.

Let’s not forget that there are other, increasingly popular, more discreet ways to consume cannabis that don’t produce the smoke and the smell, like vaporizers and edibles. Damage-causing plants can also be cultivated elsewhere, like in a (knowing and accepting) friend or family member’s backyard.

The happy medium doesn’t involve human rights-violating restrictions, but basic consideration; the same considerate discretion exercised when it comes to playing loud music, practicing an instrument, or smoking cigarettes.

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