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 my building's 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 propose an amendment to the policy to make it clearer if you want cannabis smoking to be included.  

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.