Canadians will be able to grow up to four plants, as well as smoke, eat, or vape cannabis in their homes—but it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Green thumbs rejoice – those who wish to grow their own cannabis recreational use legally can as of October 17, once Bill C-45, the federal legislation to legalize the drug, comes into full effect.
Under new federal law, Canadians will be able to grow up to four plants, as well as smoke, eat, or vape cannabis in their homes.
However, while cannabis will be considered a legal recreational substance, there are still grey areas when it comes to growing it on your own property. Homeowners should be aware that, despite its new legal status, there could be consequences from an insurance, mortgage, or even real estate perspective, as these industries struggle to adapt to this new home-grown reality.
Here’s what homeowners should know before growing their own cannabis gardens.
Grow-Op Status is Still Hazy
When one thinks of a “grow-op”, rows of plants, harsh hydroponic lights, and water damage come to mind. It seems silly to categorize four potted stalks the same way – but your home insurer may feel differently.
That’s because there currently isn’t a clear legal definition of what qualifies as a grow-op. That means a small amount of home-cultivated cannabis – even within the legal amount – and a large-scale operation can be stigmatized in the same way in the eyes of a home insurer.
This also means a standard for remediation – the steps one needs to take to return a home to an insurable status – doesn’t exist either. That leaves homeowners who are slapped with such a label very little recourse to rectify the situation, and until such a standard is introduced at the provincial level, the risk remains.
Not only could affected homeowners see their home insurance coverage voided – especially their flood and fire policies – but they may also face hurdles when it comes time to list; homes for sale that are difficult to insure are typically passed over by mortgage providers, making it extremely challenging to sell them at a competitive price.
You Should Call Your Insurance Provider
Of course, the insurance industry doesn’t want to linger in the pre-legalization dark ages. Now that the drug will be considered legal, the most competitive insurers are striving to offer products that address these risks. The challenge, however, is changing their policies before the legislation comes into effect.
Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada, told Zoocasa that the issue is prominently on the industry’s radar, but that insurers can’t make a concrete move until October.
“Like everyone, we’re operating in a vacuum in regards to the details,” he said, adding that insurers will have to review their policy wordings once legalization occurs. The onus is also on the homeowner to ensure their existing coverage is sufficient, or whether they’ll need a new policy once cannabis is legalized.
“Once the legislation is introduced and passed, it makes sense that any homeowner sits down and contacts their insurance representative and makes sure what they have makes sense for them in coverages,” he says.
The Real Estate Industry is Pushing for Change
It’s not just insurers caught in C-45’s fine print. The real estate industry has also raised concerns that home cultivated cannabis will post risks for unwitting house hunters and sellers.
In April, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) released a formal set of recommendations, with a five-point proposal to reduce the damage of cannabis stigmatization in the home, as well as protect prospective home buyers and sellers. Called Protecting Ontario Homes – OREA’s Plan for Cannabis Legalization, it implored the provincial government to:
- Designate illegal grow operations as unsafe under the Building Code Act;
- Mandate that illegal cannabis operations are inspected by a municipal building official;
- Require municipalities to register remediation work orders on the title of a former grow operation – this is especially noteworthy, as it will allow a home’s status to be cleared once the necessary repairs are complete;
- Mandate that all licensed home inspectors receive training on how to spot the signs of a former marijuana grow operation;
- Restrict the number of plants that a homeowner can grow to one from four in units that are 1,000 square feet or less.
However, at press time, the Ontario government has not stated whether it will take these measures under consideration. It also remains unclear how other provincial governments throughout Canada plan to address these risks (excluding Quebec and Manitoba where home cultivation will be banned altogether).
The Bottom Line for Homeowners
Until these concerns are clarified, homeowners who wish to grow their own cannabis need to do their due diligence; clearly communicate your intention to do so to your home insurer and confirm what that would mean for your coverages and your property’s status, so you can enjoy your newly-minted legal crop worry-free.
Penelope Graham, Managing Editor, Zoocasa