moved that Bill C-330, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (landlord consent), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand and debate my private member's bill in the House today. I look at the two votes we just had which were unanimous. They were on items put forward by Liberal members and concern very practical matters that will make things better for Canadians. I certainly I hope this particular piece of legislation will be received in the same spirit of co-operation, because I am truly convinced that this bill would make things much better and solve a really significant and difficult issue.
What Bill C-330 would do if passed is amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to provide for regulations requiring the consent of landlords to tenant activities in respect of controlled drugs and substances. More specifically, the enactment would require the written consent of any landlord on whose premises the production or sale of any controlled substance is to occur.
The bill is in response to the access to cannabis for medical purposes regulations, which came into effect August 24, 2016. These new regulations do not require individuals who wish to produce marijuana in their residence to notify or seek the consent of their landlords. The federal government failed to provide clear direction for landlords and insurance companies when it made changes to the medical marijuana rules.
Under the rules, Health Canada gives specific guidelines on how to safely set up a medical grow op, but when it comes to checking if the safety rules are being followed, the federal department is leaving that up to the municipalities. I think all of us who live in communities have had our municipalities express extreme frustration on this issue. According to the local development and engineering services director in Kamloops, the problem is that federal privacy rules apply, which prevent local authorities from knowing where medical marijuana is being grown. They do not get a list of addresses, so they cannot actually do anything proactively in terms of going out and inspecting the premises. It is a significant issue. There is no system to proactively check if tenants are growing the allowed number of plants according to their permit.
When asked about this issue, the health minister said the federal government's role is to ensure people who need medical marijuana have access. I want to pick up on that point. I do not disagree that people who need medical marijuana should have access, but I want to give an example. Some people need digoxin for their heart, but they do not have to actually grow foxglove in their home to get digoxin. If people need something that is medically necessary, surely to goodness we could find a better way than having them grow it in their home because they cannot afford it. We have found ways around antibiotics and drugs like digoxin. We do not require people to grow their own medication. The government says that we have to provide access, but who is looking out for the landlords who have put hundreds of thousands of dollars into their homes? They are having their homes destroyed because the federal government has not found a better way to provide access to needed medical marijuana. Surely we can do better than that.
This is important for people who might be listening, because there is a lot of talk right now about the new recreational regime. Bill C-45, which is before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, is a proposed regulatory framework for cannabis for recreational purposes. As I talk, members will see there is a huge difference between what is proposed for recreational use and medical marijuana.
With medical marijuana, the task force that was tasked with going around and making recommendations to the government essentially suggested that as the government moved toward legalization of marijuana and regulations the distinct system of the medical marijuana regime be maintained for medical purposes.
We have two very distinct systems. One is recreational, and that is Bill C-45, which is moving through the Senate. We also have the issue of medical marijuana, which has been around for many years.
The medical regime will allow people, including those under the age of 18, with the support of a health care practitioner, to have access to cannabis for medical purposes. They can purchase it from a federally licensed seller of cannabis for medical purposes. They can cultivate their own, if they are over the age of 18, or designate someone to grow cannabis on their behalf, which is called “designated production”.
There used to be limits on how much cannabis could be stored. The Liberals tried to align the recreational and medical regimes, but they took away the limits on what can be stored, which had been in place before.
When the Liberals put out the new regulations around recreational use, they talked about four plants. I think they did that because they knew they would be heading into the difficult territory we have seen with the medical regime. It is four plants. It can be regulated. The provincial authorities have the ability to regulate. For example, strata condominiums can say whether one can have dogs or cats. There is an ability for provinces to create some regulations around the four-plant designation. I believe some provinces are saying no to the home grow and others are saying yes. The government recognized that with any more than four plants it would be heading into very difficult territory, but there was no consideration given to the issue. It is only the federal government that can solve this issue with the medical marijuana. The provinces cannot do it nor can anyone else.
It is important to note that with a medical licence, people can grow their own and be designated to grow for someone else. There is a maximum of four licences to grow cannabis in one residence. For example, a 1,500 square foot apartment could have up to four licences. What does that mean in practical purposes? If one has been prescribed three grams per day, that means one could have 15 plants indoors, six plants outdoors, or a combination of indoor and outdoor plants. However, it is not uncommon or all that extreme that a person may have a prescription for seven grams a day. I remember the government moving the limit for our veterans from 10 grams to three grams. Again, seven grams is a number we can use. If there is a licence to grow for four people at seven grams a day, a person could have an enormous number of plants indoors. It could be up to 120 plants growing indoors if someone had four licences for seven grams. It is an incredible amount.
I will recount the true story of someone who came into my office, and this was part of the genesis of the bill. He shared his story with CBC in February 2017:
Longtime landlord Darryl Spencer was left scrambling for insurance after discovering a tenant was growing dozens of medical marijuana plants inside and outside his rental house.
When the landlord told his insurance company about the perfectly legal grow-op, his coverage was cancelled, leaving him with no insurance, few rights and a big cleanup bill.
Spencer says the downstairs tenant in the Kamloops, B.C., rental property got a medical marijuana licence that allowed him to legally grow as many as 60 plants without his landlord's permission or knowledge.
This was his retirement savings plan, by the way. He had decided to put his money into a revenue-making rental property. There were 60 plants there without his knowledge.
The article continues:
A call from a concerned neighbour prompted Spencer, who is also a retired fire inspector, to check out the home he's rented out to different tenants for a decade.
He discovered a mess of extension cords, fans and bright lights packed into a room filled with dozens of marijuana plants. The upstairs tenant, a woman with a small child, was complaining about heat radiating through the walls and electrical breakers going off....
...landlords have little recourse if a tenant is growing licensed medical marijuana. They don't even have the right to know it's happening. Yet it's landlords who are being denied insurance
They do not have the right to know what is happening when a tenant is growing medical pot.
Spencer told Go Public, “I was worried about the fire hazard. That was my first thought because of the extension cords, the use of electricity and that something could catch fire.”
When he notified his insurance company about his tenant's grow-op, Gore Mutual cancelled his coverage.
“They wouldn't cover claims to do with medical marijuana or air quality contamination,” he said.
Gore Mutual Insurance said that it “does not provide coverage for marijuana grow-operations regardless of their legality because this type of operation in a residential building presents inherent insurance risks.”
The article continues:
Those risks, the company says, include “a greater likelihood of water damage, mould, fire, vandalism and burglary.”
Under most basic home insurance policies, marijuana-related damages or anything that companies believe is “high risk” is not covered.
This is a view that is shared by many insurance companies, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
“While regulations may allow for the legal growing of marijuana for medical purposes, it does not change the structural risk grow-ops pose to homes and condos.... The operation of a grow-op, whether legal or not, is still a high-risk activity.”
That was from Andrew McGrath, spokesman for the Insurance Bureau, in an email to Go Public. The article continues:
Gore Mutual Insurance told Spencer it might reinstate his coverage if he got rid of the tenant and took specific steps to ensure the house was safe to live in.
He actually had no ability to get rid of this tenant because of the laws of the land. He actually had to tell his tenant he would pay him to leave. That was a significant cost for him.
The article states:
The insurance company also wanted air and soil testing, plumbing and electrical inspections, and the house checked for mould.
Spencer did it all, while searching for another insurance company that would cover him right away. None would.
He went for quite a while with no insurance. I remember that he came in and chatted with me in my office. He was devastated. He was absolutely beside himself seeing his life savings potentially completely at risk.
As I noted, he finally paid the tenant to leave, then he did all the remediation that was required. Of course, he is out thousands and thousands of dollars.
We talk about availability and affordability of housing in this country. When we have potential landlords who are terrified that if they rent their homes they will have no recourse, and they still do not in terms of this medical marijuana issue, I think they rightfully are saying that they are not going to rent. They will take their homes off the market or sell them. Therefore, this is an issue that has ramifications for more than individuals and their finances. It has significant ramifications for the availability of affordable housing.
Go Public covered the story. Eventually Spencer did all the work and managed to cover things off.
I do not think anyone is appreciating the cost to landlords of people growing medical marijuana. According to the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations, it can be absolutely prohibitive.
What I am asking is that we get support to get this to committee. I appreciate that people who have a need for medical marijuana need affordable access to it, but surely, at the same time, we cannot be jeopardizing the hundreds and thousands of dollars of investments by people across this country who are being absolutely devastated by this particular structure of a regulation.