A marijuana plant is seen before harvesting at a rural area near Corvallis, Ore. on Sept. 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Andrew Selsky

Real estate association calls for moratorium on homegrown recreational cannabis

TORONTO — Canada’s real estate industry organization is calling for a moratorium on growing recreational marijuana at home until the government sets out nationwide regulations for the practice.

Ottawa’s proposed marijuana legalization regulations allow Canadians to grow up to four marijuana plants at their residences. Medical users are already allowed to grow at home after a federal court ruled in 2016 that the government cannot ban patients from growing their own cannabis.

However, the Canadian Real Estate Association said the ban it is requesting applies to home cultivation for recreational users when marijuana legalized later this year.

It wants the government to amend regulations to stop home grown pot until provinces can enact their own regulations dealing with the matter — and believes Ottawa should provide provinces with guidance on “safe home cultivation.”

The association, which represents more than 125,000 real estate brokers, agents and salespeople, argues that four marijuana plants can produce as much as five kilograms of cannabis a year. It is concerned about potential property damage and effects on home prices.

“We’ve heard from homeowners and tenants across the country who are worried about living beside grow-ops,” CREA’s president Barb Sukkau told the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on Monday, according to a statement released by the industry association.

“What does this do to their home value? Will this increase their rent? How safe will their kids be? Will their quality of life diminish because of the prevalence of drugs in their neighbourhood? These are all concerns that need to be considered before the passing of Bill C-45.”

In 2016, a federal court judge struck down legislation introduced by the former Conservative government, which had banned medical marijuana patients from cultivating their own pot. The judge found that the law violated patients’ charter rights.

“The courts have been very clear on this,” said James O’Hara, the president of the advocacy organization Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana. “That patients are in fact allowed to grow their own medicine… It’s as simple as that.”

When asked about CREA’s concerns, he said that CFAMM recommends that all patients growing cannabis at home understand and adhere to the applicable fire and electrical codes.

“Just to make sure that the grows are safe and that they conform with all regulations and standards,” he said.

Randall McCauley, CREA’s vice-president of government and public relations said they’re not targeting medical marijuana patients who are growing cannabis at home.

He said Ottawa should ban recreational pot growing at home, and if not, set out a framework for how it should be governed.

“You can get it by mail. So that alleviates accessibility needs across the country. Basically, there are many questions and concerns surrounding growing in your house. And we don’t see what problem it solves, rather, it potentially creates lots of problems.”

The question of consuming pot in home residences has also raised the ire of some landlords, who want the right to immediately ban the use of pot in rental properties when recreational weed is legalized.

The marijuana legalization bill, C-45, will allow Canadians the right to grow pot under a certain limit, but each province and territory is developing its own legal framework for production and consumption. Quebec and Manitoba, for example, have already chosen to prohibit home cultivation of weed.

Earlier this month, the Ontario Real Estate Association called for the provincial government to restrict the number of plants a home owner can grow, depending on the size. It recommended that home owners growing cannabis in a condo or apartment unit that is 1,000-square-feet or smaller should be limited to one plant, down from four. The industry association said this restriction, and other proposed changes, would help protect home buyers from health and safety risks linked to grow-ops.

Health Canada was not immediately available to comment on Monday, but its website says that provincial, territorial and municipal governments will be allowed to set further restrictions on personal cultivation beyond what is outlined in the proposed Bill C-45.

However, Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said in February that federal rules around marijuana will take precedence over provincial law. She has also said that if provincial prohibitions are challenged in court, the federal law will prevail.

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