City of Vancouver cracks down on Olympic Village tenants’ marijuana use

Pam Burge smokes pot, but she says it’s not about getting stoned. “I smoke it for pain,” the 67-year-old Vancouver resident told the Georgia Straight, saying marijuana provides her relief from a host of ailments, including chronic body aches, arthritis, and depression.

For her, it’s an absolute bummer that precisely because of this she may lose her home. Burge lives in one of two rental buildings owned by the city at the Olympic Village.

On September 14, tenants saw notices declaring: Cannabis Is Not Cool. The signs were posted by COHO Property Management, a company owned by the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C., which runs the properties on contract with the city. The material warns that “verifiable complaints about marijuana smoke disturbing other tenants” will lead to termination of rental agreements with buildings at both 80 and 122 Walter Hardwick Street.

“It’s not as if I’m a pothead,” a stunned Burge said. She recalled that just last spring, Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson joined seven other B.C. mayors to support the regulation and taxation of marijuana. “The fact is the mayor has come out in favour of legalizing it,” Burge said. She also pointed out that the B.C. Compassion Club, of which she is a member, has been operating with a city licence for 15 years and it has never had any problems with the police.

Robertson did not agree to an interview. Thom Armstrong, executive director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C., noted that the anticannabis signs were posted “after discussions with the city”.

“It simply responds to complaints that we’ve received from tenants who are calling the office and saying they’re being bothered by smoke—tobacco and marijuana—that is getting into their units,” Armstrong told the Straight in a phone interview.

The housing federation boss also said that the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Residential Tenancy Branch have issued rulings that landlords and property managers have a duty to protect people from secondhand smoke. Armstrong also pointed out that no tenant in the two city-owned properties on Walter Hardwick Street has presented a Health Canada permit to smoke marijuana for medical reasons.

Although the federal government allowed marijuana use for medical use starting in 2001, it does not license organizations like compassion clubs or cannabis dispensaries. Only Health Canada can legally supply both cannabis seeds and dried marijuana.

As of January 8, 2010, 4,884 persons in Canada were authorized to possess dried marijuana under the medical-access regulations. But even possession of a federal permit to smoke marijuana isn’t a guarantee against eviction.

In 2003, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the Capital Region Housing Corporation in Victoria could kick out Eric Young from the two-bedroom rental home he and his wife occupied. The court decided that although he could legally use pot for his multiple sclerosis, his smoking deprived other tenants of the enjoyment of their suites.

Tom Durning of the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre explained that the 2003 ruling laid down the law on marijuana use. “The judge said you can smoke marijuana, but if you’re bothering people, you’re gone,” Durning told the Straight by phone.

Jeet-Kei Leung, a spokesperson with the B.C. Compassion Club Society, explained that cannabis dispensaries have been filling the need for medical marijuana. Although compassion clubs operate without authority from the federal government, members like Burge have verified referrals from their health-care practitioner, Leung noted.

“What the property-management company needs to understand is that a clear distinction has been made between recreational and medical use of cannabis,” Leung told the Straight in a phone interview about the situation at the Olympic Village.

Between June and July, Burge received two letters from COHO advising her that the building owner—the City of Vancouver—is aware of complaints about marijuana and tobacco smoke emanating from her suite.

“We tried more informal methods; we spoke to people and sent notices around and, finally, in conversations with the city, we just decided that we have to be a little more direct,” Armstrong related.

Burge countered that when she was interviewed by a COHO staff member in April 2011 regarding her tenancy application, she was asked if she smoked. “I wasn’t smoking cigarettes when I moved in here,” she recalled. “I said, however, that I do use marijuana as a pain reliever, that I belong to the compassion club, and I have doctors’ notices. And he said, ‘Oh, that’s fine. There’s no problem with that.’ ”

Comments (54) Add New Comment
Sandra D.
Medical or not, if your cannabis-smoking is harassing your neighbours, that is grounds for eviction. And when there are other ways to consume cannabis that don't harass your neighbours, such as a vaporizer, but you persist in harassing them anyway, that makes you a selfish douchebag. A soon-to-be evicted selfish douchebag.
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Techno Whiz
Pam...quit smoking tobacco and get a vapourizer for your cannabis.
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Derek
I don't understand why some people are talking about this being a problem of "social housing". Isn't it just a rental property? And a much-needed rental property?
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West Vancouverite
Having such close proximity with maladjusted drug users is not something I would wish to contend with.

I, for one, am glad I did not choose to allocate my real estate investment dollars in such a locale. Proximity to social housing may attract such ragamuffins advocating marijuana consumption at the expense of neighbours in the area. This would have an unacceptable effect on property values.
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420 every other day
The gallery has spoken - the solution is simple: use a vaporizer or take a walk around the block. I like weed as much as any stoner, but prefer smoking outside. I don't like my clothes & stuff smelling either.
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teth adam
@Derek

it IS a problem inherent with social housing. social housing tends to attract tenants with a lower socioeconomic status. this in turn allows for marginal elements of society such as chronic potheads to exist closely with people who paid big bucks for their property.

who the hell wants to pay 500,000 to a million bucks to live right to some selfish ingrate puffing away on smelly wacko tabacco?

duh!
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sigh
Smoke outside or have it baked into items for you. The fact is some people don't want to smell marijuana all day long. I am a strong believer in legalization, but there's a reason I live in a no smoking building!
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prenup
Matin Dunphy:

"complaints that we’ve received from tenants who are calling the office and saying they’re being bothered by smoke—tobacco and marijuana—that is getting into their units"

The above quote tells me that this is an issue trhoughout and not from one person who uses it for medical reasons. To assume that there is a disproportionate amount of medical marijuana users in that building as opposed to any other type of pot smoker is unreasonable and unrealistic.

"no tenant in the two city-owned properties on Walter Hardwick Street has presented a Health Canada permit to smoke marijuana for medical reasons"

The above quote would suggest the user/users are self-prescribers. I think its safe to assume that anyone who self-prescribes narcotics has a drug use problem.

While any single picture might generalize.. a more accurate picture would be of someone who is simply stoned and smoking pot because they like to get high. Its stoners causing the problem there (likely a disproportionate amount coming form there social housing tenants).

What the city never got with that project is the when you give someone something (in this case cheap social housing) they will never treat it as respectfully as someone who earns, and pays for something themselves (study after study proves this), so the people paying next to nothing to live their wont respect the property or their neighbors as much as the people who know how much it actually costs (earning and maintaining) to live there.

I know I know everyone smokes pot in Vancouver, but within social parasite demographic you have a much high percentage of drugs users.





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Buddy
$700 for a good vaporizer!
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Save Vancouver
@MarkBowen, do you seriously think inhaling chemicals of any kind is good for your lungs? Vaporizers may decrease the effects but they don't eliminate them.

Pot smoke stinks, its like having a family of skunks go off underneath your window.
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Martin Dunphy
prenup:

Your lengthy reply ignored the only question directed at you.

But your characterization of tenants who pay 30 percent of their income for rent (in housing built for them) as "social parasites" speaks volumes about your reason for posting in the first place.

Don't step on any landmines, dear. (Apologies to Basil Fawlty.)
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Holee shit
And I thought Straight readers were always progressive/forward thinkers when it comes to pot (oh & the homeless & panhandlers too) something that the Straight supposedly stands for.What's wrong, everyone getting cranky in their old age?
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seagreen
I wish that everyone in Metro would get over this bullshit about expecting the kind of clean air and quiet that one would expect living on 20 acres of country out in the upper Valley or something. I am sick and tired of not being allowed to be at home in my own home, because whiners insist on NO PETS! NO SMOKING! instead of accepting that living in crowded urban areas requires tolerance of your neighbours, and their lifestyles, and their habits (and that their kid would like to have a dog or a cat). This is the same ignorance that insists that 90 year olds who have smoked cigarettes since they were 10 should go outdoors to catch their death instead of merrily smoking away in THEIR HOMES! If you don't like the smells that come from living in a crowded city, then move to acreage outside Boston Bar, or somewhere like that.
And, for what it's worth, it is long past time that we stopped caving in to the lobby that insists that the interests of wealthy people who can drop 500 grand to a million on a condo are automatically more important than the interests of the other 99%
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A. MacInnis
Whew, Seagreen - it's a bit of a digression, but you ever have to clean a social housing apartment vacated by a 90 year old who has spent his or her entire tenancy smoking in it? You ever even SEEN what one looks like? Because I have: suites with white paint turned brown, except where pictures were hung, where the original white still shows through. Suites that still have a sour, foul old tobacco smell long after the tenant and all their property is gone. Suites you basically have to wear a hazmat suit to clean properly...

Of course, we're talkin' about tobacco smoke, there...
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Tony_42
Smoke it on your balcony. Eat it. Use a vaporizer.

Most of all continue to stand up against what has become the outright persecution of cannabis users. Jail, eviction, job discrimination. What's next shooting pets and beating down doors.....oh wait.

You go girl!
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miguel
She should have known not to mix with condo clowns.
Miguel
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Pat Crowe
I remember my old aunt Pearl lamenting the social changes to her Vancouver back in the mid seventies. Aunt Pearl was born at the end of the nineteenth century. She was a registered nurse whom served in both world wars for Canada. Her very nice apartment was on Robson St. where a high rise now stands. She complained about the smell of marijuana which she said was everywhere in Vancouver at that time. As an impressionable youth I thought Vancouver must have been a wonderful town following her derisive comments. So my teen friends and I hopped on a ferry, dropped acid and beelined for the Travellers Inn on Hastings{because they sold beer to 16 year olds} to take in the flavour of the big city. We didn't smell any pot. We didn't see anyone smoking pot. We saw things much, much worse than that. Junkies everywhere. Bum fights. Menacing tranny hookers, scary dangerous cops, sketchy street hustler drunks, out of town loggers and fisherman blowing their wads and picking fights.
It was a much better town then.
Now it's full of little old ladies complaining about their otherwise quiet, decent neighbours having a hoot to decompress from their hectic, big city days.
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Linda M
Maybe if they hadn't done such an abysmal job in constructing these units, the smoke wouldn't carry around so easily.
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Toast
I agree that a vaporizer is a solution to this problem, and that people should not have to be exposed to second hand smoke, however the blatant classism in many comment are disappointing, you can't paint all the people who live in social housing with the same brush...
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Martin Dunphy
Toast:
Bang-on with both points.
And an aside to Mr. MacInnis: why would a "social-housing apartment" vacated by a lifelong smoker be any dirtier than, say, a condo or a "regular" apartment vacated by a lifelong smoker?
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