Ban pot smoking in condos, apartments, on balconies: OPH

The City of Ottawa's public health agency is recommending banning the smoking and vaping of cannabis inside all condos and apartments, and even on outdoor balconies.

Ottawa Public Health also urging province to outlaw smoking, vaping in outdoor designated areas, hotels

Ottawa Public Health wants the province to ban the smoking and vaping of cannabis inside condos and apartments, as well as on balconies. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The City of Ottawa's public health agency is recommending banning the smoking and vaping of cannabis inside all condos and apartments, and even on outdoor balconies.

Ottawa Public Health's (OPH) submissions, attributed to Dr. Vera Etches, the city's acting medical officer of health, were sent to the province Monday, the last day Ontario solicited public feedback on a number of proposals related to the pending legalization of cannabis by the federal government later this year.

One of the province's proposals is to restrict the smoking or vaping of cannabis in any indoor or outdoor common area at condominiums and apartment buildings, including but not limited to elevators, hallways, lobbies, parking garages, party or entertainment rooms, laundry facilities and exercise rooms.

But OPH went further, arguing it should be banned in condo and apartment units themselves, as well as on balconies.

The agency reasoned that second-hand smoke "can disperse through a building, traveling between adjacent units through cracks in walls and ceilings, windows, and heating and ventilation systems."

The ban should extend to all combustible products, OPH wrote, including medical cannabis, tobacco and herbal shisha.

Lounges, designated outdoors areas

The agency also hopes designated outdoor areas for cannabis smoking and vaping near multi-unit dwellings will be outlawed, along with indoor consumption lounges for smoking and vaping cannabis.

"Allowing designated consumption establishments poses risks to public health, undermines the efforts of tobacco control to denormalize smoking and poses public health risks," OPH wrote in its submissions, which cited the city's ban on shisha smoking indoors.

"The City of Ottawa set precedents in creating smoke-free spaces by enacting a bylaw prohibiting the use of water pipes (non-tobacco) in public places and workplaces. Evidence demonstrated that water-pipe establishments had implications for clean indoor air laws, occupational safety and posed serious health risks," OPH wrote.

"This evidence must be taken in to consideration for licensed cannabis consumption lounges."

As for consuming edible cannabis in designated areas or establishments, OPH recommends another consultation should be held once edible cannabis is regulated.

'At this point it's not safe'

Marino Francispillai, an OPH program manager, said in an interview by phone Tuesday that the risk of second-hand smoke is too great in multi-unit dwellings.

"Whether you're on a balcony or you're inside, ventilation crosses over. Your balcony is right next door to the entry to another balcony ... so there's still a second-hand smoke risk," he said.

Marino Francispillai, a program manager at Ottawa Public Health, said the risks of second-hand smoke travelling from unit to unit can't be completely eliminated in multi-unit dwellings.

"Looking at the evidence, we're just saying at this point it's not safe to be doing that in a multi-unit dwelling," he said.

Hotel, motel, inn rooms

The province proposes allowing registered guests and their invited guests to use recreational cannabis in hotel, motel and inn rooms as long as it's not being smoked or vaped, and to allow smoking and vaping only in designated smoking rooms.

But OPH wants the province to ban cannabis smoking and vaping in all hotel, motel and inn rooms, along with the consumption of all other combustible substances.

"Doing so will protect the patrons, housekeeping staff, and maintenance staff from involuntary second-hand smoke exposure," the agency wrote.

"We've got years of experience in this realm with tobacco," Francispillai said Tuesday. "There's not been success in terms of maintaining [designated smoking rooms] and making sure that they actually do eliminate the risks related."

Exemptions for workplaces

The province proposes exempting most private residences that are also workplaces from the ban on smoking or vaping cannabis, with similar rules to those found about tobacco smoking, e-cigarettes and medical cannabis in such facilities outlined in the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

Those residences include long-term care homes, retirement homes that provide care, supportive housing, licensed homes for special care, psychiatric facilities and certain facilities for veterans.

OPH supports that proposed exemption.

Proposals are 'unconstitutional': Activist

Proposals to ban the smoking of cannabis in private dwellings has left John Akpata, a Marijuana Party of Canada activist, wondering where people are going to smoke it.

"It makes absolutely no sense. The ban applies to people who don't own their own home. So, the ban is for poor people. The ban is for marginalized people but rich people can do whatever they want," he said.

"I burn incense. Are they going to ban that? I try to crack the windows when I burn my incense but I know some people don't like it. But I like it, and I'm in the privacy of my own home. Am I hurting anybody?"

He argued the laws surrounding cannabis are "full of contradictions" that will only drag lawyers to court unnecessarily.

With files from Joe Lofaro