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Pot law changes prompt dispute resolution service

Toronto litigator and commercial arbitrator Marvin Huberman has helped launch the Canadian Cannabis Dispute Resolution Centre to advise clients of their rights and the law concerning cannabis consumption in condominiums, apartments and other places.

Huberman, who is certified as a specialist in civil litigation by the Law Society of Ontario, has joined forces with lawyer/mediator Jonathan Jacobs, to launch the new endeavour. He says it fills a need in the marketplace as Canadians wrestle with the ripple effect of cannabis decriminalization.

“We’ve literally just started, and we’re talking to people, but we haven’t taken on any files yet,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “This is all new, and there are inevitably going to be disputes about marijuana between tenants, condo owners, landlords and condo boards.”

Huberman says generally the law is clear. In Ontario, for example, pot can be smoked wherever it's legal to smoke tobacco.

That’s all under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, but he says it gets tricky when you start with the Residential Tenancies Act.

While many landlords have posted signs banning tenants from smoking cannabis in their units, they may not have the right to enforce it, says Huberman.

“If the person is an existing tenant then they aren’t covered,” he says. “The Ontario government has not changed the Act to reflect any of this yet.”

So, if the tenant was able to smoke cigarettes in their unit, they’re probably entitled to smoke weed, Huberman says.

For new tenants, it gets trickier because they may be asked to sign a lease which forbids tobacco and cannabis, he says, or just cannabis.

Further, Huberman says, the landlord may then claim that smoking marijuana in the unit is preventing other tenants from the quiet enjoyment of their homes and therefore, the smoker could be subject to eviction under that clause of the Residential Tenancies Act.

Condominiums have a different set of rules. A condo board may pass a bylaw forbidding pot smoking, for example, but they may not be able to enforce it, he says.

Individual unit owners may also prohibit their tenants from smoking inside, but again, it comes down to enforcement since there is no right of entry, Huberman explains.

“We’re here to advise parties of their rights and the law, to mediate or arbitrate and, if needed, to refer to litigation,” he says. “We have a network of experienced associates we can refer clients to.”

The issues anticipated can’t be resolved with a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all approach, Huberman says, and thus will have to be handled on a case-by-case basis.

“We will work with you to determine the most cost-efficient and practical way to resolve the dispute and to develop a strategy to deal with issues as they arise,” he says.

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