When the recreational use of cannabis became legal last October 17, a number of jurisdictional battlefields between Canada’s various levels of government was inevitably created. While Ottawa dealt with criminality and established a nationwide framework for production and health standards, certain details were left to the discretion of provinces and territories, who in turn allowed municipalities to impose their usual bevy of bylaws and restrictions.

Naturally, some towns and boroughs decided to make it practically impossible to light up in any public or semi-private area within city limits. So there is an argument to be made against sheer legislative overkill. But the restriction I’m about to describe is not, in my humble opinion, anything close to that.

Through section 107 of the Cannabis Regulation Act, the Quebec government chose to allow, for a limited time, residential landlords to retroactively modify the conditions of an existing lease to prohibit, amongst other things, the smoking of cannabis on the premises.

To me, this is a good thing. To others, it’s yet another example of the nanny state putting its jackboot on the neck of freedom-loving individuals in order to protect the feeble masses. Doctrinaire Libertarian types will often fall back on the slippery slope argument, a consequentialist logical device where a relatively small step or regulation inevitably leads to government overregulation and tyranny.

As a long-time fan of philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand, I get it. But that old argument can be a rather tiresome way of denying the need for even the most basic regulation. If left to our own devices, human beings are a selfish, reckless and riotous lot of dystopian savages (See post-invasion Iraq in spring 2003, any depiction of a post-apocalyptic society, or anything with zombies in it).

My parents own a 1960s-era duplex where, at one time, a basement tenant turned into an increasingly heavy cigarette smoker and large, furry dog owner. This turn of events made life in her own home unliveable for my mother, who suffered from severe allergies to, well, practically everything — but especially tobacco smoke and wet St. Bernards.

During my years as a tenant, I’ve had to at times endure the smell of cigarettes or the pungent and sometimes eye-watering odours of cannabis smoke wafting in through the windows from the balconies below, or through the doors, floors, walls and vents that surrounded me.

Today, as the caretaker of a 1960s-era duplex, I rigidly maintain a smoke- and pet-free building for those very reasons and welcome the idea of a retroactive insertion into the lease that, on top of prohibiting cigarette smoke, includes the burning of cannabis. Why not make the rights of clean-air lovers air tight? And this is from a former tobacco smoker who, half a lifetime ago, occasionally stank up a few areas with his own weed.

So I say why raise a stink if the provincial government is simply dotting its i’s and crossing its t’s? Why get all huffy and puffy when all it’s trying to do is make it absolutely clear to any lessee who might have the bright idea to challenge a lessor with any “the-lease-said-cigarettes-but-said-nothing-about-cannabis” crap? Why not just nip that idea in the bud before it sprouts any copycats?

Quite often, the same people who rage against every government regulation are the same people who fought tooth and nail against limiting the amount of lead in gasoline, legislating the use of seatbelts in cars, the wearing of helmets on motorcycles and the banning of smoking in restaurants. Like their noise, sometimes rules and regulations can go too far, but to me, Section 107 of the Cannabis Regulation Act is a welcome breath of fresh air.


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