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Editorial: Weeding out weed

Ottawa talking tax on weed.
Some apartment complexes want to change their lease arrangements to probit the smoking of legalized weed on the premises.

It’s just another example of how complicated things are going to be as provinces roll out their marijuana rules.

Several provinces — Newfoundland and Labrador among them — have decided that marijuana smoking has to be done on private property. Ontario’s rules are so tight that weed smoking has to take place in private residences.

But what happens if your private residence is an apartment?

Here’s a part of a Canadian Press story out of Toronto.

“(The province is) not going to allow marijuana to be smoked in public areas, so where the heck are people going to smoke marijuana? Well they’re going to do it in their apartments,” said John Dickie of the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations. “The problem is, just like when they smoke tobacco, the smell goes to neighbouring apartments. Buildings are not hermetically sealed.”

It can cost $5,000-6,000 to get the smell of marijuana smoke out of apartment walls and floors, said Dan Henderson, president of the DelSuites property management firm in Toronto.

“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,” said Henderson, whose company manages rental units for approximately 2,000 landlords in the Greater Toronto Area.

You can see the problem.

The landlords point out that in the past, they haven’t had to write marijuana smoking bans into their leases, since smoking it was already illegal.

How are you legalizing marijuana if you then regulate it so tightly that smoking can’t happen anyway?

The government, they say, is changing the rules in mid-stream, and landlords aren’t going to have the opportunity to reopen leases in cases where they didn’t anticipate needing to protect other residents from second-hand weed.

The landlords have asked the Ontario government to allow them to redraft leases to add in bans for marijuana smoking in individual units in their buildings — but if they do, that creates a different problem.

Will there end up being two different classes of citizens, home owners who can smoke marijuana, and renters who can’t? How are you legalizing marijuana if you then regulate it so tightly that smoking can’t happen anyway?

It is, of course, one of the problems of bringing a whole new legal pastime to the table.

Tobacco smoking already has its rules and regulations, including stipulations in leases. If you want to smoke cigarettes in your apartment, you have to find a landlord who will let you.

Tobacco and anti-smoking legislation has grown up over a period of time: first, age limits, then on-package warnings and advertising bans, then bans on indoor smoking at public locations, etc.

With marijuana, a whole bunch of different concerns are going to be dealt with all at once — and it’s not surprising that some of them haven’t been anticipated.

It’s going to be a bit of a rocky road ahead.

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