Pubdate: Fri, 09 Mar 2018
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Andrew Duffy
Page: 4


Proposed ban on balcony marijuana smoking ignites debate

Should condo owners and tenants be allowed to smoke pot in their homes
and on their balconies?

Ottawa Public Health's newly released position paper has ignited
debate on those questions, and set the scene for a confrontation
between pot smokers who want to exercise their hard-won right to use
legal weed later this year, and non-smokers who want to be protected
from the effects of second-hand smoke.

Shery Dia, a writer and University of Ottawa student, supports the
health unit's call for a strict smoking ban inside multi-unit
buildings. She plans to move from her current apartment because of the
persistent incursion of pot smoke into her fifth-floor unit of a
Gloucester highrise.

"I smell it in the corridor when I go to take the elevator, I smell in
when I'm sitting on my balcony. Sometime - and I don't know how - it
gets inside my apartment," said Dia. "It's really disturbing me. I
hate any kind of smoke. I'm very sensitive to smells."

Others, however, contend the public health agency's recommendation to
ban pot smoking and cannabis vaping from rental units and condos -
even from their balconies - goes too far.

Craig Jones, executive director of the National Organization for the
Reform of Marijuana Laws in Canada, said the proposed regulations are
heavy-handed, particularly as it relates to smoking outdoors.

"If you prohibit people from smoking on a balcony, how are you gong to
enforce it?" he asked. "Are you going to create a stand-alone,
separate police agency to enforce balcony prohibitions?"

Earlier this week, Ottawa's acting medical officer of health
recommended that the Ontario government extend its proposed ban on pot
smoking in common areas of condos, apartment buildings and university
residences. Dr. Vera Etches said the province should prohibit smoking
of any kind - cannabis, e-liquids and herbal shisha products - in all
multi-unit residential buildings. The ban, she said, should extend to
condos, apartment buildings, university residences and hotels and
their balconies.

"The available evidence on cannabis smoke," she wrote, "demonstrates
that (it) contains tar, fine particulate matter and many of the same
harmful chemicals and cancer-causing agents as tobacco smoke."

Etches said second-hand pot smoke can travel through a building's
cracks, windows and ventilation ducts, and can harm pregnant women,
children and those with respiratory problems.

In the same document, Ottawa's public health agency expressed its
opposition to designated pot-smoking areas outside apartments and
condos, and to licensed cannabis lounges. "Allowing designated smoking
areas risks normalizing cannabis use, poses enforcement challenges and
undermines tobacco control efforts," Etches argued.

The agency also called for rules that would strictly limit the smoking
of medical marijuana inside apartments and condominiums.

The province is expected to issue rules later this year that regulate
where medical marijuana can be used.

Jonathan Zaid, executive director of Canadians for Fair Access to
Medical Marijuana, an education and advocacy group, said Ottawa Public
Health's recommendations fail to respect the rights of those who need
marijuana for pain relief.

"I think it's ludicrous,"he said, "and, quite frankly, out of touch
with the rights of medical cannabis patients to use cannabis in their
own homes. There is a duty to accommodate people who have disabilities
or medical needs."

Many patients who use medical marijuana, he noted, have mobility
issues that could curtail their ability to smoke outdoors or in
designated areas.

Darlene Powell, 67, of Winchester said she believes the government
should allow people to do what they want inside their own homes. "I
find that when you start telling people what they can or cannot
consume within the boundaries of their own legally owned space, that's
just going too far,"she said.

"We're being regulated to death," said Powell, who described herself
as "a child of the '60s and no stranger to marijuana."

Marino Francispillai, program manager of school and community mental
health and wellness at Ottawa Public Health, said the agency's
recommendations are consistent with the city's policies to limit
exposure to second-hand smoke. The city bans smoking in public parks,
patios and beaches.

"We're really looking at this from a population perspective,"he said,
"and making sure we're protecting those who are trying to avoid being
exposed to second-hand smoke."
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