What to do if you don’t like the smell of cannabis near your home or business in Canada

Published Apr 19, 2019 11:11 a.m. ET
Photo Credit Eduardo Lima

Marijuana legalization has already brought with it many wonderful and exciting new benefits for Canadians who now have access to an alternative recreational and medicinal substance option. Unfortunately, not everyone appears to be so happy with it, and the most complaints are stemming from the pungent odor that is emitted by both consumers and cannabis licensed producers. The scent that emanates from an area once the plant material has been burnt or when growing marijuana can be difficult for neighbors who would prefer to avoid it altogether to remain comfortable in their own homes and work spaces. To help we have compiled a list of things you can do to tackle the annoyance of cannabis smells in your day to day life.

Cannabis licensed producers

Such high demand for marijuana products has ignited a critical need for cannabis producers to open shop. The lack of pot growers led to a stressful and hindering time for the new industry and consumers who were hoping to have much more access to different products like marijuana bud, concentrates, tinctures, oils, and ointments. The market still hasn’t fully recovered from the most recent shortage and the introduction of new rules that will allow marijuana edibles and tinctures to be sold countrywide, it has never been of higher priority to get these companies established and producing as soon as possible. So far, most cannabis licensed producers have chosen to open quickly and discreetly hoping none of the neighbors would notice, but the smell has become unbearable in some areas that are calling for stricter regulations and penalties for those who are unable to create a system that dramatically reduces the scent from travelling outside of the facility.

Residents of a neighborhood slated for a marijuana dispensary or producer

The Canadian government has taken into consideration these opinions and introduced new legislation requiring both producers, manufactures, and dispensaries to survey residents in an area before going ahead with growing marijuana. This law also included a list of cities that chose to opt out of hosting a cannabis licensed grower or dispensary. Unfortunately, if your community isn’t listed there than any business may open with very little notice to the community. If you are unable to convince your regional council members to include your city or town on the list, then it might be best to pay attention to media and news releases. A public notice must be posted 30 days in advance of a meeting that will be held for community members to speak their opinions on cannabis establishments before they open. The most effective option is to remain vigilant and to attend these meetings to share your thoughts and opinions on how such an establishment might negatively affect you, or others in the area.

Residents who reside in a neighborhood that already hosts a licensed marijuana grower or vendor

If you have found yourself to be negatively affected by the presence of a cannabis producer or dispensary in your area,then you always have the option to make a complaint directly to your local city hall. The federal government chose only to set primary rules surrounding cannabis and left the details up to the individual provinces. The provincial government has maintained the view that each city should retain the right to opt of hosting marijuana-related businesses, so it is typically up to city councilors and members to ensure the needs of residents are heard.

Neighbors growing marijuana

If you find yourself to be negatively affected by neighbors who are growing cannabis, your options are limited, but in certain cases, there are exceptions that are meant to discourage interference of your neighbor's reasonable enjoyment. Now with that in mind, you must also remember that if you live in a province that allows growing marijuana than there might not be much you can do unless your neighbor is producing more than legally allowed since they have just as much right to the reasonable enjoyment of their home as you do.

If you own your own home outside of a condo association or building with multiple units

For homeowners, there is very little that can be done about a neighbor who chooses to grow marijuana. This is because you and your neighbors are both entitled to equal and fair use and enjoyment of your properties. If you find yourself in this situation, sometimes a simple fix like planting a garden full of sweet-smelling flowers can be enough to mask the scent most of the year. If your neighbors are growing more marijuana than what is legally allowed in your area, than you may phone the police and let them investigate, but that is where your ability to influence their actions ends. The only other choice you have is to try just being nice and asking politely for a mutually agreeable solution.

If you rent a unit with neighbors who also have the same landlord

Apartment buildings, duplexes, and other living areas that share walls with adjacent units and landlords have a slight advantage over most other living arrangements. This is because rentals in Canada are governed by agencies that enforce things like reasonable enjoyment among neighbors. The very first step when encountering a neighbor who is growing marijuana is to ask them to find a solution to the interference. They may not even be aware that they are causing you grief and should be informed before moving forward. If that doesn’t solve the problem, then you can speak to your landlord who can issue warnings due to the interference imposed on you in the comfort of your own home. The landlords or property management should then work on the tenant's behalf, to find a reasonable solution. If none is found, then they may have the ability to evict the trouble tenant. If the management or landlord to not work on your behalf, then you can forward a complaint to the governing agency in your area. In Ontario, it’s the RTA (residential tenancy act) that protects renters from being imposed upon by neighbors. Other regions will have their version of this agency which can help to guide you through the rest of the process.

If you rent or own a unit in a condo

Condo associations are one of the few rental agencies in Canada that hold a lot of power when it comes to managing their tenant’s conduct and problems. For instance, they can ban or limit pets, require deposits, charge fluctuating condo fees, limit those who might be accepted based on income and other situations that are otherwise protected as basic human rights as a Canadian renter. This can be a drawback in many cases, but in this one, the additional strength may be to your advantage. If you find neighbors in your condo are growing marijuana, and the smell is affecting you, then you have the option of raising concerns to the condo board who would have the ability to demand a change of said behaviors, alter current regulations for all residents, and in some cases also eviction if all else fails. Just remember, they can do these things, but that doesn't guarantee they will. This is why it is important to find a condo board that holds similar values and rules to yourself.

If you own a business that is being affected

Smoking or vaping cannabis

There are a few different situations that may or may not make a person uncomfortable due to exposure to smoke or vapor from marijuana products. How to handle your discomfort will depend on which one you find yourself in. The above section covers how to manage these things if you are bothered at home, but not so much other space you might find yourself in such as:

Private homes
There is no way for you to manage or regulate what people smoke in their private homes, or on their private properties unless you fall within the realm of the above sections.

Public spaces
Public smoking laws and regulations for cannabis seem to have been combined with those already in place for tobacco. The best way to avoid marijuana smoke in public is to learn which spaces are smoke-free if you see someone consuming marijuana products in a prohibited area than you can report them to the police through your local non-emergency police line.

Private property rentals
Some private property rentals might restrict cannabis use on the property, while others might use similar laws to those, they already enforce for tobacco which maintains a 10 feet distance from any roof hanging or entrance way. If you find yourself bothered by people around you smoking or vaping marijuana around your rental property than inquire about the rules management currently has in place and advocate for change if you feel necessary. Unfortunately, you might find that it is easier to move to a place that already has strict regulations in place, as it is difficult to bring in new rules for existing tenants without possible financial compensation.

Business property
Businesses have the right to either allow or prohibit smoking or vaping of any sort on their property. Typically signs will be displayed near the entrance to state how far away you must remain when smoking or vaping, while others will post around the property to ban it altogether if you see people consuming marijuana products outside of a business than it may be a good idea to approach the business owner and see how they feel. They may already be trying to implement a ban but have no idea how to enforce it. These sorts of changes are new and significant, which sometimes requires a demand to make them happen.

Though there are hundreds of different ways a person can choose to tackle the nuisance of cannabis licensed producers, dispensaries, or neighbors who are emitting a pungent scent that is affecting you, it is important to remember that marijuana use is now entirely legal and should be expected anywhere where tobacco is allowed. It’s likely to be even more places than tobacco now that so many Canadians will be growing their own. It’s time to work on technology to positively impact these issues, rather than dividing ourselves based on differing personal preferences.

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