OTTAWA — A Coquitlam woman says she has incurred $135,000 in damage to her rental property due to a medical marijuana grow-op licensed by Health Canada without her knowledge or consent.
And she says the federal government’s new regulations leave the door wide open to continued abuses, especially in B.C. where the number of state-sanctioned grow-ops has increased exponentially.
“I don’t want this to happen to other property owners,” said the woman, who shared documentation of her plight but spoke on condition of anonymity.
She said she’s convinced there are many other victims who won’t report the problem due to fear that their home’s property value will plunge.
Urging landlords to amend their rental agreements, she said they should insist on bimonthly inspections and clauses prohibiting the manufacture or storage of drugs, whether legal or illegal.
“The government has taken the position that homeowners do not have the right to prevent their homes from being turned into commercial-scale grow-ops, or even know about it,” she said Tuesday.
“People need to protect themselves.”
A B.C. lawyer who successfully fought the former government’s attempt to crack down on state-sanctioned home grow-ops, meanwhile, said the lack of a requirement for landlord consent is a “defect” in the new regulations.
But Abbotsford lawyer John Conroy, lead counsel in the Allard vs. Canada case that led to the new regulations, amended his comment in a subsequent e-mail exchange, saying a consent requirement could have an “unreasonable” impact on renters.
He said he hopes the Trudeau government, which said the August regulations were an interim step en route to pot legalization, will resolve the dilemma.
“It seems to me there are valid concerns on the part of the owners and tenant-patients in the current market that will hopefully ultimately disappear in a legal market.”
Health Canada’s new regulations, which took effect last week, were in response to the Federal Court of Canada’s Allard decision in February.
The case involved four B.C. residents who challenged the former Conservative government’s 2013 requirement that patients buy pot from government-regulated suppliers rather than grow it.
Justice Michael Phelan concluded the restrictions violated their charter rights, and dismissed the government’s argument that they were justified for health and safety concerns — from fires to violent break-ins to severe mould.
A Health Canada official said Tuesday that the government’s regulations strike “an appropriate balance” between the rights of patients and public safety.
The new rules are nearly identical to those of the 2001 regime, and that’s a problem for the Coquitlam resident.
She complained that the new system doesn’t require the owner’s knowledge or consent when a tenant makes a successful application. (Consent is only required if the licence-holder doesn’t live in the rental property.)
The second is that the regime, relying on the recommendations of the patients’ physicians, allows for quantities vastly higher than what a typical user requires.
In her case, the grow-op she discovered last year in her two-storey rental home — located across the street from an elementary school — contained 400 plants that were being grown for illicit sale, generating $20,000 a month.
It was operating under the authorization of a Health Canada licence obtained not by her tenant, who shared the upper floor with his young son, but by two individuals who were paying him to run the grow-op in his basement.
(Because the applicants didn’t obtain her consent she plans to sue Health Canada for failure to enforce its own rules on disclosure requirements.)
Health Canada statistics produced during the Allard case said the number of production licences in Canada soared from 83 on Dec. 31, 2001, to just under 9,000 in 2011.
The total then more than tripled to a little over 28,000 by the end of 2013.
More than half — 16,010 — involved successful B.C. applicants even though the province has roughly 13 per cent of the Canadian population. The data also showed that on Nov. 13, 2014, the B.C. applicants grew just under 1.7 million indoor plants — a staggering 69 per cent of the national total of a little over 2.4 million plants.
And the average amount Health Canada authorized patients to use was 18.2 grams of dried marijuana, or between 18 and 37 joints, a day.
Justice Phelan, in his February decision, said experts “largely agreed” that the recommended daily amount of medicinal pot ranged up to five grams a day for most patients.