Sask. landlords consider blanket smoking bans ahead of cannabis legalization

Jeanne Labelle Potvin is all too familiar with the frustration of having secondhand smoke seep into her Regina Housing Authority (RHA) apartment.

“I stayed four-years in that building, and it was four-years too long,” she recalled.

As it turns out, she wasn’t alone.

In March, the Office of Residential Tenancies ruled in favour of Potvin and her neighbours when they complained about debilitating secondhand cigarette smoke in their units.

“I knew I had a right to live in an environment that didn’t affect my health because of somebody else’s choices,” Potvin added.

With just over 13 weeks until recreational cannabis is legalized, some Saskatchewan landlords are rushing to extinguish all smoking in units and on balconies. Saskatchewan Landlord Association Executive Officer Chanda Lockhart says smoking-friendly buildings won’t be able to discriminate between tobacco and cannabis.

Provincial changes to rental laws addressing cannabis give landlords the right to change leases to prohibit growing and smoking pot inside- though changes won’t happen overnight.

The Saskatchewan Housing Corporation and Calgary-based Mainstreet Equity Corp. will see blanket smoking bans take effect in August and the fall respectively, accounting for thousands of homes.

“Not everyone is okay with smoking, and now adding cannabis to that… Now we’ve got cigarette smoke and cannabis smoke bothering people that perhaps didn’t want that in their lives,”  Lockhart said.

Lockhart says landlords are concerned about cannabis smoke damaging units, and how to enforce potential bans.

At a recent meeting with nearly 200 Saskatoon and Regina-based landlords, Lockhart noted roughly 80 per cent inquired about going smoke-free.

While Potvin is happy in a new, smoke-free apartment, she feels she would still be in her old RHA apartment if only a blanket smoking ban had been in place.

Still, she says she does understand the plight of cigarette and pot smokers who could face heavy restrictions on indulging at home.

“This is going to have a huge impact on people like that. I’m really perplexed as to how both sides can be accommodated.”