What is cannabis?

Cannabis sativa is a plant that is grown and used around the world.  It’s flowers and leaves contain chemical substances (cannabinoids) that have psychoactive effects.  Many different psychoactive products come from or can be made using the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant including dried herbal materials which are often smoked.  Other common names for the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant include marijuana, pot and dope.

Is secondhand cannabis smoke as harmful as tobacco smoke?

Researchers have only recently begun studying the health effects of secondhand cannabis smoke.[1] As such, there isn’t as much evidence demonstrating the harms of secondhand cannabis smoke relative to tobacco smoke.  Cannabis is far less addictive than tobacco, and as such, use tends to be less frequent and secondhand exposure more intermittent. This, however, does not mean that it is safe. 

The combustion of cannabis releases thousands of the same chemicals found in tobacco smoke including many chemicals we know to be harmful and cancer causing.[2]  Some studies demonstrate that cannabis smoke may emit more dangerous chemicals than tobacco smoke.[3] According to recent Ontario data, about 30 percent of cannabis smokers mix tobacco in their “joints,” making the distinction between tobacco and cannabis smoke innocuous. [4]  There is no difference between cannabis and tobacco smoke when it comes to the ease at which they both disseminate throughout a multi-unit building[5].  Also, the risks of harm and even fatalities related to fires caused by smoking would be the same regardless of what is being smoked. For all these reasons, smoke-free policies should prohibit all forms of smoking.

 

[1] Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, “Smoking Cannabis in Multi-Unit Residential Settings.” 2015. http://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/resources/tclc-fs-cannabis-muh-2015.pdf

[2] David, M, William S. R, Genevieve, L., et al. A Comparison of Mainstream and Sidestream Cannabis and Tobacco Cigarette Smoke Produced under Two Machine Smoking Conditions. Chemical Research In Toxicology. 2008;  21(2), 494-502.

[3] Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, “Smoking Cannabis in Multi-Unit Residential Settings.” 2015. http://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/resources/tclc-fs-cannabis-muh-2015.pdf

[4]. Lalomiteanu, A. R., Hamilton, H. A., Adlaf, E. M., & Mann, R. E. (2016). CAMH Monitor e-Report: Substance Use, Mental Health and Well-Being Among Ontario Adults, 1977–2015 (CAMH Research Document Series No. 45). Toronto, ON: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Available at: www.camh.ca/en/research/news_and_publications/ Pages/camh_monitor.aspx

[5] Public Health Law Centre http://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/Medical%20Cannabis%20and%20Housing%20FINAL.pdf

Will it be legal to smoke cannabis in multi-unit housing when cannabis use becomes legal in Canada?

Yes, it will be legal to smoke cannabis inside individual suites within multi-unit housing.  The only places cannabis smoking will not be permitted is anywhere that tobacco smoking is prohibited under law, including indoor common spaces (such as lobbies, elevators and hallways) and within 5 meters of any public doorway or air intake.

Smoking cannabis in individual units within multi-unit housing will be legal unless there is a smoke-free policy to prevent it. In the absence of a such a policy, the only places cannabis smoking will not be permitted will be common areas where tobacco smoking is also prohibited, such as lobbies, elevators, hallways and within 5 meters of doorways and air intakes.

That said, landlords, property managers and condo boards will have the authority to include cannabis smoking in their own smoke-free policies.  If you already have a smoke-free policy, it is likely already inclusive of cannabis, but you will want to check the wording to be sure. 

Does our existing smoke-free policy cover cannabis smoking now that cannabis use is legal?

Not necessarily, you will have to look at the exact wording of your existing policy and consider the way ‘smoking’ is defined.  You may want to amend the policy to make it clearer if you want cannabis smoking to be included.  See also: How do I ensure that my smoke free policy covers cannabis?

How do I ensure that my smoke free policy covers cannabis?

There are many different ways to phrase a policy in order to make it inclusive of cannabis. Here is a definition we recommend:

“Smoking” means to inhale, exhale, burn, heat, or have control over a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, hookah pipe, or other lighted smoking implement designed to burn tobacco or any other weed or substance for the purpose of inhaling or tasting of its emissions.

And this definition would also include electronic cigarette use except for those approved as cessation devices by Health Canada:

“Smoking” means to inhale, exhale, burn, heat, or otherwise use or have control over a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, hookah pipe, electronic cigarette or other lighted or activated smoking implement designed to burn or vaporize tobacco or any other weed or substance for the purpose of inhaling or tasting of its emissions, but does not include use of a therapeutic product authorized in accordance with the Food and Drugs Act.

Legal information provided on this site is based on a professional legal opinion available here.

Would a smoke free policy prohibit all forms of cannabis use?

No. Smoke-free policies focus on prohibiting the use of cannabis though combustion (smoking).  Most people who use cannabis smoke the plant’s dried leaves and flowers (often called marijuana) in a joint, which is like a cigarette, or in a bong, which is a water pipe.[1] These uses should be covered by a properly worded smoke-free policy.

There are a variety of other forms of cannabis use which do not produce smoke and would not be prohibited under a smoke-free policy. These include edibles, tinctures, beverages, oils and pills.

An emerging trend is to consume cannabis products through the use of vaporizers that allow the user to inhale vapor and not smoke. [2] This form of use has not been proven to impact the health of bystanders, but research into the overall health implications of vaping is still emerging. This use would only be prohibited under a smoke free policy that prohibits all forms of electronic cigarettes and vaping products.

Another popular method on the rise is smoking or vaping THC-rich resins taken from the cannabis plant, a practice called dabbing.[3]  Again, any use involving smoking should be covered by a properly worded smoke-free policy, and use through vaping could also be prohibited if desired.

It should also be noted that smoke-free policies would not typically address whether or not residents are allowed to grow cannabis plants in their units.  Under the current Alberta legislation it is legal for residents to grow up to four cannabis plants in their residence (with restrictions on the height of the plants and the source of the seeds) provided it does not contravene any building bylaws or tenant agreements.  The growth of cannabis plants in multi-unit housing raises health and safety concerns beyond the scope of smoke-free policies.  It may be practical to address this policy issue at the same time as the issue of smoking.

 Legal information provided on this site is based on a professional legal opinion available here.

[1] Centre for Disease Control, “cannabis frequently asked questions” Accessed November 2017: https://www.cdc.gov/cannabis/faqs.htm

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

 

Do people with a medical prescription for cannabis use have the right to smoke in their units?

Having an illness that allows for a cannabis prescription does not permit residents to obstruct a smoke free policy or to regularly expose other residents to secondhand smoke.  That said, housing providers should acknowledge the illness and seek a solution to accommodate such residents without conceding existing policies or the health of other residents. This is important because it is the compassionate thing to do, and because their illness could be seen as a disability which must be reasonably accommodated under human rights legislation.

Possible actions towards accommodation include:

  • Requesting the resident try smoke-free forms of cannabis use if using indoors. The resident may find equal relief from using cannabis in other forms (such as edibles, tinctures, beverages, oils, and pills.[1]) which do not emit smoke.
  • Ensuring there aren’t any avoidable barriers preventing the resident from smoking outdoors.
  • If available, offering to move the resident to another suite with easier access to outdoor spaces where they can smoke.

Accommodation should take into consideration advice from the prescribing physician. 

Legal information provided on this site is based on a professional legal opinion available here.

[1] Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, “Smoking Cannabis in Multi-Unit Residential Settings.” 2015. http://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/resources/tclc-fs-cannabis-muh-2015.pdf

 

Where can I find more information about smoke-free housing?

This website is full of information about smoke-free policies, including the benefits of a smoke-free environment and how to go about creating a policy for your building. There are also many tools and resources to help you throughout the process. 

For more detailed information, download our comprehensive guidebook on smoke-free policies for rental properties or contact us to order a print copy.