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

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      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.’ ”


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      Arthur Vandelay

      Sep 20, 2012 at 10:59am

      For someone reaping the benefits of social housing, she doesn't seem to be willing to bare even its slightest cost.
      Just as an aside, is anyone else noticing the Friendly Giant resemblance?

      Martin Dunphy

      Sep 20, 2012 at 1:13pm


      Thanks for the input.
      What type of picture, then, do you think would "accurately represent the problem there"?
      A resident of one of the buildings, a person who legally obtains and self-administers marijuana for verifiable medical conditions, contacted the <em>Straight</em> to complain about the property-management company's notice.

      So whose picture <em>should</em> be used to conform to your idea of the rampant, chronic drug abuse that's going on in the buildings?
      Some Downtown Eastside stock image from the Global TV news archives, maybe?


      Sep 20, 2012 at 1:16pm

      As a MMAR authorized medical cannabis user... this idiot needs to respect her neighbours!

      If a waft of smell passes by once in a blue moon it won't kill them, but actual smoke is obnoxious and can be upsetting if you don't appreciate the smell. If this was happening every day, I could see why the other tenants would be upset. I'd be livid!

      I love the smell personally, but I wouldn't want smoke seeping into my home all the time. I smoke outside my house, on my property, and I'm cautious to make sure the smoke is carried away away from my other neighbours.

      Louise St. Georges

      Sep 20, 2012 at 1:37pm

      I have often wondered where people who are on government subsidy or assistance get the means for cigarettes and marijuana. I feel for people who truly have aches and pains but as a severe asthma sufferer I know what it is like to have been made sick due to someone's addiction. What of the rights of neighbours trying to raise families in a clean and healthy smoke-free environment? We try to teach our kids to "say no to drugs" yet individuals ifeel their rights to poison another persons air is quite alright, poor role models indeed! It's nothing short of selfish and quite reflective of what is problematic in our community. The courts have it right; if you cause you neighbour distress through your actions; you're gone. Oh and by the way, thank you Health Agencies, the information on your website had a direct effect in restoring fresh air to my environment.

      22 9Rating: +13


      Sep 20, 2012 at 1:51pm

      Honestly, we live in VANCOUVER!! I understand the whole second hand smoke being harmful but to the extent of eviction?? Just tell em' to get stoned outside.


      Sep 20, 2012 at 1:58pm

      Thank God the Federal government allows medical marijuana because I know what prescribed pain killer did to me, they gave me a feeling of being sea sick, dizzy & nauses plus the added bonus of slowly killing my liver. People don't have a clue what chronic pain is & how much medical marijuana helps in relieving that pain. I can also tell you that medical marijuana does not make you a lazy ass, in fact it had the opposite effect on me. I actually do more work at keeping my apartment super clean & able to do most necessary daily chores. Unfortunatley the needs of the many out way the needs of the few & I guess Pam will just have to go outside or get a vapourizer. Before passing that buildings non smoking rule they should have considered at least making a smoking room. BC building codes must have less insulation or pourous concrete between apartments for the odour to go thru a building like that. Thank God I don't live in a building like that but that is probably because we get really cold in the winter & we have well insulated apartments. The only time I ever smell anything is when a hourder moves in & you get that nice garbage smell but only from their door & the hall way just outside the door. Anyways I don't think Pam is the problem but the people who smoke it illegally that caused this building law. Now she is the one who has to suffer because of it.


      Sep 20, 2012 at 2:32pm

      when it becomes legal then let them smoke it ....outside


      Sep 20, 2012 at 4:18pm

      i use to have a neighbour who would hot knife in the morning with his oven fan going. the smell came right through into my kitchen.

      unfortunately, he was a school teacher so there was no way i was going to say anything lest i get a failing grade.


      Sep 20, 2012 at 4:21pm

      plus, when they stop referring to it as "medicine" i will respect the friendly giant et al. a lot more.

      ps: what do vaporizors run, cost-wise?


      Sep 20, 2012 at 4:35pm

      I lived in a building that had such strict non-smoking rules you could not smoke in the suite, on the balcony, in your car, or anywhere else on the property. I at least had to be on the sidewalk.