'At first we all thought, "Are there skunks around here?"': Neighbours fed up with medical marijuana grow-op
City Coun. Ross Eadie preparing motion to ban grow-ops from setting up in residential neighbourhoods
People living on a quiet street in The Maples say they're tired of sharing the neighbourhood with a medical marijuana grow-op.
The house was purchased by a couple two years ago, according to land title documents, but neighbours say no one ever moved in. The owners live in another home on the same street and have only used this house to grow medical marijuana plants.
"They bought this house for a grow-op I guess," neighbour Rogelio Laoag told CBC News.
Laoag and his wife have lived in their home for about 20 years but since their neighbours' home turned into a grow-op in 2017, they haven't been able to enjoy their backyard. They say the smell of cannabis is so strong it makes them feel light-headed.
"We don't spend much time here because of that smell. And even cleaning the yard here, we cannot stay that long. I have to get inside and have a break," said Laoag.
"It can be strong enough to the point where your throat will burn a little bit," said neighbour Jean Hrechuk.
The smell wasn't that bad initially, Hrechuk said, except for one day when the plants were being harvested. She said that changed last December when the homeowners installed a new heating and air conditioning unit.
"At first we all thought, 'Are there skunks around here? What's happening?' And then we realized, 'Oh, OK.' It's just overwhelming now," she said.
Licence to grow 200 plants
A woman who owns the home with her husband told CBC News her family has a medical marijuana licence from Health Canada and is allowed to grow up to 200 plants. She said they currently grow about 50 plants in the basement of their other house. She appeared surprised to hear the smell bothers neighbours and said she would talk to her husband to see if there's a way to fix it.
"The biggest concern is that they got it in there without anybody knowing about it," said neighbour Bohdan Klos.
He wants to know why no one in the neighbourhood was consulted about a medical marijuana grow-op moving in.
"It's a business put into a residential area."
Klos said the couple who bought the home told the previous owner they were buying the house for the husband's parents.
"They were going to move in. He was just going to set it up for them and as you can see it never turned into that. They turned into something else," said Klos.
He said several neighbours have taken their concerns to their city councillor and even to police, who told them there's nothing they can do.
"Nobody seems to want to do anything about it," said Klos.
Motion to ban grow-ops from neighbourhoods
"The Supreme Court made a decision about medical marijuana rights, they didn't make a decision that said you can violate people's life in their neighbourhoods with these big productions," said Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie.
Eadie said he's heard from homeowners in two areas of the city who are fed up with smelling grow-ops next door. He's now working on a motion that would forbid Winnipeggers from growing a large number of cannabis plants in their homes even if it is for medical marijuana purposes.
"There are things we don't allow people to do in their houses," said Eadie. "You can't run a restaurant in a house. You have to get different zoning. Not residential zoning different zoning. So there's no difference here."
Eadie said if you are growing so much pot you require a commercial type of ventilation system, you shouldn't be allowed to grow it at home.
"We know that illegal grow-ops over the last decade or more have caused mould and other problems in houses and people who have bought these houses can't get insurance. They can't get a mortgage. They can't even resell the house because it's on a list of dangerous toxic houses," he said.
Hrechuk doesn't have a problem with people growing medical marijuana in their homes, as long as they are living there and managing the smell and other potential hazards.
"You want a neighbour next to you … people that are there all the time, and not have to deal with things like they didn't know the smell was bad because they're not here. And so I would hope that that kind of legislation would ameliorate the problem," she said.
Eadie plans to present his motion at the next Lord Selkirk-West Kildonan community committee meeting on May 7.