News / Calgary

Alberta landlords want exemption in Human Rights Act to ban pot smoking

A group representing landlords fears tenants will use human rights complaints to circumvent smoking bans

Legally, people will be allowed to grow as many as four marijuana plants once its legalized in 2018, but some landlords want the right to restrict growing plants in their properties.

Jim Mone / The Associated Press

Legally, people will be allowed to grow as many as four marijuana plants once its legalized in 2018, but some landlords want the right to restrict growing plants in their properties.

Alberta landlords are asking the province to nip possible human rights cases in the bud when it comes to cannabis use in rental properties, but the province doesn't see that happening.

In a letter to the province, the Alberta Residential Landlords Association (ARLA) asked the province to revisit the residential tenancies act. The group is also asking for an exception to the Alberta Human Rights Act to make sure the right to prohibit cannabis smoking and growing is crystal clear.

Sherri Doucette, past president of the ARLA, said they want the rules to be clear before cannabis is legalized in 2018.

"We think clarity is the most necessary thing so it's clear what rules landlords can make and enforce," said Doucette.

The group is seriously concerned that if this isn't addressed, a tenant could launch a human rights complaint arguing for their right to grow or smoke cannabis.

"Once something is legalized, does it create the right of access?" asked Doucette. "Obviously there's issues regarding medical marijuana in particular in that regard."

She said smoking in particular can have an unwanted affect on residents in adjacent buildings.

"How do you protect the rights of all your tenants, and the rights of perhaps the person who needs to utilize medical marijuana, and how is the law going to help us with that?"

However, the province doesn't believe that human rights will be an issue as far as recreational use goes.

In a written statement from the Alberta Cannabis Secretariat, they indicated that they believe existing regulations about tobacco smoke will apply to cannabis just as well.

"These existing tools have the ability to prohibit cannabis-related activity on a property," read the statement.

"As we move towards legalization on July 1, 2018, we’ll continue to educate landlords, renters and condo boards on the options available to them."

Doucette isn't convinced those rules will apply. She noted that age-restrictions were allowed on buildings until just recently, when a human rights complaint forced the province to change the regulations on those.

But the right to consume medical marijuana could still be a human rights issue, according to Sharon Polsky, vice president of the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties group.

She said it could get messy if building owners had differing views on smoking pot.

"It would leave an ever-changeable patchwork of tenancy requirements imposed at the will of the building owner.

She wondered what would happen if a building changed ownership, and a new owner decided to impose a zero-tolerance policy where the previous owner had allowed growing or consumption.

"I wonder if this proposal would even be constitutional to allow the blatant discrimination of individuals who are smoking marijuana for medical purposes," said Polsky.

She said that matter is already settled.

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