Manitoba

'At first we all thought are there skunks around here,' neighbours fed up with medical marijuana grow-op

People living on a quiet street in The Maples say they are tired of living next to a medical marijuana grow-op. The house was purchased by a Vietnamese couple nearly three years ago, but no one resides in it. The owners live in another house down the street and are only using the home to grow medical marijuana.

City Coun. Ross Eadie preparing motion to ban grow-ops from setting up in residential neighbourhoods

A Winnipeg woman living in The Maples says her family has a Health Canada medical marijuana licence to grow up to 200 plants. The woman and her husband own two homes on the same street. They live in one house, and use the other to grow pot. (Associated Press)

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.

Neighbours living near this home say they're tired of smelling a strong cannabis odour coming from inside. The owner told CBC News she wasn't aware the medical marijuana grow-op was bothering people living nearby. (Walther Bernal/CBC News)

"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.

Rogelio Laoag says he and his wife haven't been able to enjoy their backyard since the house next door turned into a grow-op two years ago. (Walther Bernal/CBC News)

"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.

Jean Hrechuk lives beside a home in the Maples that was converted into a marijuana grow-op. She says the smell wasn't that bad in the first year but became unbearable after the homeowners installed a new heating and air conditioning system in December 2018. (Walther Bernal/CBC News)

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."

According to land title documents, the home was purchased by a couple in 2017, but neighbours say no one moved in. Instead the house is being used as a medical marijuana grow-op. (Walther Bernal/CBC News)

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

Bohdan Klos lives across the street from a medical marijuana grow-op. He doesn't understand how the homeowners were allowed to turn their bungalow into a pot production plant. (Walther Bernal/CBC News)

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.

Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie is planning to put forward a motion that would forbid Winnipeggers from growing a large number of cannabis plants in their homes, even if they have a Health Canada licence to do so. (Walther Bernal/CBC News)

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.

People living on a quiet street in The Maples say they're tired of sharing the neighbourhood with a medical marijuana grow-op. 1:58

About the Author

Caroline Barghout

Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca

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