Coincidental timing has Canada’s new cannabis laws coming into force in the middle of Waste Reduction Week and just four days after Fire Prevention Week wraps up. That might be somewhat less momentous than the initially envisioned July 1 launch date, but it’s fittingly in sync with a potential influx of many more smokers into Canadian society.
“Smoking was one of the top-two causes (along with cooking) of residential fires for years and years. It has only been fairly recently that some other causes have surpassed it,” observes Michele Farley, president and senior code consultant with FCS Fire Consulting Services Ltd. “Now there could be a pickup in smokers again, and there’s an added fire safety concern if they’re smoking something that may make them impaired.”
The seven-point guiding purpose stated in the federal Cannabis Act emphasizes public health, safety and prudence. The underpinning goals of the legislation are to ensure that cannabis production and sales transactions occur within a regulated framework, which allows only adults to participate and operates in a utilitarian manner with limited scope for marketing.
In the health and safety context, the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal governments’ role is to police product quality, environmental standards, business practices and other longstanding rules related to controlled substances, while entrusting the citizenry to behave responsibly. Invariably, not everyone will, so a diverse range of business, professional and public interest groups are devising and deploying strategies to promote common sense and minimize risk, discord and environmental fallout.
Outdoor emissions and fallout
Ontario’s recently introduced Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act aligns with one of the key points Fire Prevention Week is promoting: Encourage smokers to smoke outside. The legislation, which the newly elected provincial government tabled late last month, will allow people who are at least 19 years of age to smoke cannabis almost everywhere it’s permitted to smoke tobacco — greatly expanding upon the previous government’s efforts to confine recreational cannabis use primarily to private residences.
Property managers, building services staff, habitués of designated outdoor smoking areas or anyone crossing through public space in the vicinity of commercial or multi-residential buildings will begin to see and smell what that entails as of October 17. “When the use, cultivation and distribution of cannabis is made legal, the use of the product by employees will be legal; however, smoking it in the workplace will not be legal. It will be up to employers to properly impose restrictions on cannabis use,” advises Joe Hoffer, a partner and specialist in municipal and tenancy law with Cohen Highley LLP.
Other repercussions will have to be monitored over the longer term. “I think the Fire Marshal will be watching to see if there is an increase in fires, but it will be awhile until we get the data,” Farley says. “In the meantime, it’s also a good time to remind people that butts of any kind should never be thrown from a balcony.”
The vast range of potential venues for smoking cannabis adds some complications for litter control. Property managers adhering to sustainability programs may want to furnish their outdoor smoking areas with green bins and instructional signage for separating and discarding all types of cigarette remnants. However, even the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) hasn’t clarified what advice to offer.
“It will come down to the kind of filter cannabis products have,” speculates Cedric de Jager, RCO’s communications manager. “Tobacco cigarette butts are plastic foam. If a cannabis joint has no plastic, and the packaging and filters are composed of organic material, it could go into a green bin.”
Luring best friends and unwanted visitors
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) warns that such material should not go into an animal’s digestive system. Human carelessness and indiscriminate canine appetites could prove a perilous mix as dog ownership climbs in many urban neighbourhoods.
“Exposing pets to THC-rich cannabis products could put them in critical medical crisis that requires prompt and appropriate medical treatment,” states a cautionary alert from the CVMA. “Smaller dogs are particularly susceptible due to the lower level required to produce symptoms. Cats are not immune to toxic side effects, but are much more selective in their food intake. Cats generally avoid eating garbage, scavenging cigarette-type butts on walks around the block or table or counter surfing.”
Cannabis could likewise prove a lure for theft in scenarios where private residences are open to the public. Regulations coming into force and the existing Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations require that plants and products be kept securely in private residences and safeguarded so that minors cannot obtain easy access to them. However, in practice, prospective vendors can be reckless about what’s on display in their homes.
“A licensed registrant must be present at all showings and open houses, but, even so, common sense should always prevail,” maintains David Roman, a sales representative with Keller Williams Advantage Realty. “I have seen all manner of things that should have been hidden, left out in view: tablets; laptops; thumb drives; items of an intensely personal nature; highly valuable jewellery; cash; drugs — both legally prescribed and illegal — and related paraphernalia. In fact, there are no established rules around this, but good agents would advise their sellers to keep all desirable items and valuables out of sight, or better, locked away.”
While cannabis plants are less likely to be pocketed, Roman doesn’t foresee them among home stagers’ preferred foliage and flowers any time soon.
“Given that there may still be a stigma around cannabis use and growing, I would currently advise my clients to move pot plants out during the listing time so as not to alienate potential buyers,” he says. “Another consideration, as I understand it, is that plants can emit a pungent odour, and an unpleasant smell in a property can turn buyers away.”
Barbara Carss is editor-in-chief of Canadian Property Management.