By Sohini Bhattacharya

Realtors, prospective homebuyers and homeowners are growing increasingly concerned about the ramifications of the legalization of cannabis looming this summer. Recent polling conducted by Nanos Research on behalf of the Ontario Real Estate Association says 36.1 per cent of Ontarians are in favour of growing zero cannabis plants inside their homes, while 7.5 per cent deem it reasonable to allow one plant per home.

To safeguard Ontario homebuyers from the health and safety perils of purchasing former illegal marijuana grow-ops, OREA released a five-point Action Plan for Cannabis Legislation. At a Queen’s Park press conference, OREA president David Reid said, “the key underlying aspect of what we’re doing here is to make buildings safe for homeownership and for homebuyers.”



Presenting the Action Plan for Cannabis Legislation at Queen’s Park, from left: Matthew Thornton, OREA’s VP of public affairs and communications, David Reid, president of OREA; and Larissa Smit, OREA’s manager of policy.
Presenting the Action Plan for Cannabis Legislation at Queen’s Park, from left: Matthew Thornton, OREA’s VP of public affairs and communications, David Reid, president of OREA; and Larissa Smit, OREA’s manager of policy.

Current federal legislation would allow inhabitants to grow up to four plants inside their homes, although some provinces, including Quebec and Manitoba, have already decided against allowing home-grown marijuana. As highlighted by CREA CEO Michael Bourque in a recent op-ed article in the National Post, while four cannabis plants might seem innocuous, there’s no regulation on the size or number of crops per year. “With very little effort (proper irrigation and lighting) one could easily harvest three or four crops a year, which could cover a large section of a home, depending on the strain of cannabis,” Bourque wrote.

Echoing the challenges raised by CREA, OREA’s five-point report says “four recreational plants is a lot of weed” and calls for a “reduction in plants for multi-unit dwellings”.

In recognizing that the provincial government is unlikely to reject the federal edict on plant allowance per home, OREA has proposed restricting it to one plant for units smaller than 1,000 square feet.

“Condos in the GTA are as small as 500 to 600 square feet. If you have four cannabis plants in there, multiplied by the number of people in that building that are growing those plants, one can imagine the detrimental health and safety impacts it’ll have on everyone else living in that building,” says Reid.

In its fourth recommendation, “mandatory training for home inspectors”, the report underlines the health and safety threats to families living in, near and around former grow-ops, especially those with young children and seniors.

“Whether growing four plants or 40, marijuana plants are fussy,” says the report. Cultivating and harvesting cannabis indoors leads to mimicking high humidity and temperatures inside – conditions that are ripe for the formation of known breathing hazards, mould and fungus. Apart from the obvious health risks, former grow-ops also present significant structural and chemical dangers that can lead to the production of noxious gasses and explosions.

OREA’s action plan strongly recommends rigorous and mandatory training for licensed home inspectors so they can spot signs of illegal marijuana grow-ops, such as diverted electricity lines; modified ductwork; staining around vents, basement floors or laundry tubs; new plumbing; chunks of replaced brickworks; circular holes in floors or roofs; or moisture-inflicted rotting wood.

“This will better protect home buyers in Ontario from unknowingly purchasing a former grow-op and being forced to pay significant amounts of money out of pocket to properly remediate the home,” the report says.

To ensure proper remediation of former grow-op properties that have been diagnosed unsafe for habitation, OREA’s third recommendation, “registration of former grow-ops” requires municipalities to register work orders on the Ontario land titles system record. This step will guarantee the enforcement of remediation standards. Former grow-ops that pass the standards may make them eligible for removal from the record.

In the past, Realtors have seen homebuyers who’ve been refused home insurance despite having their properties remediated and brought up to building code standards. This is because, according to OREA’s report, The Insurance Bureau of Canada regards marijuana grow-ops as a “high-risk activity”.  For homebuyers to qualify for home insurance on former grow-ops, OREA’s second recommendation in the action plan, “inspect former illegal grow operations,” urges the province to collaborate with the insurance industry and mandate building inspections by municipal officials on buildings that have been designated unsafe. This will “protect future homebuyers from the risks associated with purchasing a former grow-op,” according to the stipulation.

Another important recommendation of the five-point plan is for the provincial government to take the first critical step of “designating illegal grow operations as unsafe”. This would mean an amendment to the Building Code Act, thus blacklisting illegal grow-ops and restricting owners of such drug properties from selling to innocent homebuyers.

“We’re really concerned that unsuspecting families are going to step into a nightmare scenario whereby they take ownership of a property with a whole bunch of health and safety issues as a result of being the site of a former grow-op,” says Matthew Thornton, OREA’s VP of public affairs and communications.

The Canadian marijuana industry is estimated at $7 billion. To assume that the legalization of marijuana will eliminate organized crime is “naive”, according to RCMP assistant commissioner Joanne Crampton, who in September 2017 warned the House of Commons Senate Committee of operators becoming more sophisticated in running clandestine grow-ops in residential areas where families are enlisted as “crop sitters”.

The bottom line is that former grow-ops come with significant insurance and financing problems. With the release of their recommendations, OREA says there is urgency to protect vulnerable homebuyers when buying a home. The association has worked with MPP Lisa Macleod, who introduced two private member’s bills on the issue.

“I think now that the province has completed their work on the distribution and sale of cannabis in Ontario, they are ready to turn their attention to these important issues,” says Thornton.

7 COMMENTS

  1. takes a hella lot of time to veg a plant to fill out a square meter. 4 square meters for 4 plants is not a lot of area and they will not all be harvested 4 times in a year…

  2. Anyone that thinks legalizing marijuana usage will drive out organized crime is dreaming. Every First Nation’s Reserve has a cigarette shop every 100 yards – these will be doubled with pot dispensaries and the cost will be much lower than the Government operations.Justin Trudeau screwed up when he legalized marijuana use instead of just decriminalizing its use – however, that horse has left the barn on that subject, so we have to deal with the aftermath. I think that there should be laws outlawing growing of the 4 plants inside any dwelling other than large commercial operations. I know that penalizes the high rise condo dwellers, but that’s unfortunate. Also I think that the law should be changed to allow Landlords more power to disallow the use of pot in rented quarters. Also, as discussed, give Home Inspectors and for that matter, Real Estate Sales Reps more education in recognizing dangers of passive pot smoke.

  3. the replies here coupled with the misleading content in the article only add to the hysteria a minority of Canadians are demonstrating around this issue. Out of one side of their mouth the writer refers to growing 4 plants, and out of the other tries to link it with “former grow ops”. It’s a long, long way from 4 plants to a grow op. Is the real estate industry really concerned with people’s health, or are the associations creating a crisis that doesn’t exist, setting themselves up for lucrative lobbying fees from REALTORS. Writer Carolyn L starts with the disclaimer that she “didn’t grow up in the drug culture” then goes on to discuss in detail the futility of using various cleaners and deodorizers in the battle against cigarette smoke. I’m not sure when this drug culture actually occurred but I do know this; legalization of cannabis does not suddenly produce thousands or even hundreds of new users. People who currently use marijuana will continue to do so in exactly the same places and in virtually the same numbers that they did before legalization. What legalization will do ultimately, will be to take the growth and sale of it out of the hands of criminals, make it impossible for youth to legally buy it, establish accurate testing and impairment limits for drivers, and in the very near future make smoking the plant unnecessary as edibles and drinkables become the generally accepted method for imbibing. I’m sure that almost 100 years ago there was great consternation over the repealing of the prohibition of alcohol. But history shows us the sky wasn’t falling then and to a greater extent it isn’t now. And as for growing your own weed, I suspect that will be something very similar to the make your own wine and beer craze we saw in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Ask any wine drinker what they think of homemade wine. It will be too much trouble and time for a crappy result and people will simply buy it at the store. My advise to Canadians – take a deep breathe and – exhale!

    • I agree with your comments. Times are changing and we as a society need to adjust. I never smoked pot in my life but if I ever get into the unfortunate situation that it may benefit me for medical reasons, hell yes, I would try to grow my own four plants.

  4. JC van der Walt
    I totally agreed to all these concerns and regulations. I feel that more than 50% of the population in Canada to not support the growing of Cannabis in residential properties. Due to all these concerns there is not enough people to police and enforce the rules. Property values will not grow and will not be an investment due to the stigma that will go with the misused properties. The governments will not get the estimated profits and therefore will not afford effective policing’ and the people who do not support this rules will end up paying the cost. How do we protect the hardworking people’s investments or is it just about the money and the punishing of the hardworking tax payer?

  5. Western culture is going to pot. Many of our elected representatives vote for the legalization of recreational pot use because they smoked the crap whilst growing up, and many likely still do, although Justin says he never inhaled (cough-cough), but Maggie certainly did. Maybe that’s why he has to say “ah—ah—ah” every fifth goofy word that escapes from his pie hole.

    It seems that we live in a cultural milieu whereby it is no fun not having our normal consciousness routinely altered by drugs. We are a bunch of addicts-avoiding-reality, it seems. As long as a pot-head buys another pot-head’s grow-op/domicile, then who the hell cares? The problem thence becomes, what about the square resale home buyers who don’t need to escape reality on a regular basis, who want to purchase a relatively clean home not infected with the drug stench/residue/mold/wood-rot etc.? Best ask questions of all of the neighbours ‘before’ even looking at a potential resale home site. Be one’s own best researcher; do one’s own due diligence. Don’t take a chance on buying into someone else’s recycled filth. Imagine: Breathing in brain chemistry-altering smoke for fun, losing one’s ambition (if one ever had any) and just plain stunting one’s brain power (especially if one is blessed with no more than average intelligence to begin with). Stupid.

    Pot-Busters anyone?

  6. Just a question…
    Not having grown up in the drug culture and trying to be considerate of the acknowledged medical need for it, not unlike heavy cigarette smoke lingering in the air, attaching itself to hair in particular, clothing, carpets, and other items, and leaving an orange residue actual slick on light bulbs and other solids, often permeating plastered popcorn ceilings in particular, that cannot be washed because they disintegrate, does anyone have a recommendation for preventing the “skunk-like-stink” from invading the space, in addition to surrounding space, seeping through venting systems and underneath doorways into common areas such as hallways, and permeating the adjacent dwelling places… And what about patio and balcony concerns where asthma sufferers often go to get fresh air only to find the skunk seems to have visited recently.

    Many hotels advertise themselves as smoke-free, but people go into the bathroom and turn on the fan, thinking to divert the odour and or smoke, not realizing that by doing so they drive the odours throughout the whole venting system into other guest-paying accommodations.

    Apparently open bags of charcoal positioned strategically in open containers can help refresh the airbourne cigarette air infused atmosphere. I don’t know if it would work in the current drug discussion, but someone might find it useful.

    Likewise, the charcoal (loose open charcoal pieces, not barbecue brickets) allegedly helps lesson boy-cat spray odours, although nothing will remove it completely. If tomcats have sprayed joists, studs, and other wood members the odour is permanently imbedded.

    By using such cover-up or evading techniques would owners be creating a latent or patent defect when changing title? or be presenting a misleading situation that once the owner vacates, rapidly is likely to return to visit the new owner?

    Cleaning carpets and painting walls doesn’t always remove permeated years long cigarette odours. Likely the same would apply in the article noted circumstances such that provide for mold to grow, excessive moisture being needed apparently for successful growing of the weed plants and to keep them healthy. Duct cleaning is only a temporary diversion as well. Air fresheners simply don’t work, even temporarily. And for some allergy sufferers,
    sprays (and plug-ins) is a killer product when inhaled.

    Carolyne L 🍁

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