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I live in a condo. My neighbour’s cannabis smoke is driving me crazy. What can I do?
They smoke marijuana every day, and the odour drifts into my unit. I feel sick and have a hard time breathing.

I live in a condo. My neighbour’s cannabis smoke is driving me crazy. What can I do? - Answer

You have the right to use and enjoy your property. If your neighbour does something to unreasonably interfere with that right, it can be considered a nuisance under the law. This concept is explained here.

Check the strata bylaws

As well, check your strata bylaws and rules. Strata corporations can restrict smoking cannabis on strata property. They can do this by passing a bylaw. (It takes a 3/4 vote of the strata owners.) The bylaw can prohibit smoking in common areas and inside individual units as well. 

(You can learn more about adopting or changing strata bylaws on the BC government’s strata housing website and on Smoke-Free Housing BC.)

Users of prescription medical cannabis may be an exception to a strata’s non-smoking bylaws. That is, they may consume cannabis in their unit because people with disabilities have a right to use medication that supports their health and well-being. A strata has a duty to accommodate them; if they don’t, they could be violating BC’s Human Rights Code

At the same time, medical cannabis smokers can’t violate other residents’ rights to quiet enjoyment of their homes by smoking in common areas or even their units, especially where those other residents have a medical issue as well. They may want to consider using cannabis in edibles or some other alternate form that is less intrusive to their neighbours.

Even if a strata doesn’t have a specific non-smoking bylaw, almost all stratas have standard bylaws. These regulate the use of strata property, and they can be used to deal with second-hand smoke issues. Among other things, the bylaws prohibit owners, tenants, occupants, and visitors from:

  • causing a nuisance or hazard to another person, and
  • unreasonably interfering with the rights of others to use and enjoy the common property, common assets, and individual strata units.

What you can do

You can write a letter to your strata council. In it, describe your concern, including details of when the incident(s) occurred. Explain the impact of the smoking on you and say what outcome you’re seeking. 

The strata council must present your letter at a council meeting, and it must give the neighbour written details about the complaint. (The letter would include an invitation to either respond to the complaint or attend a council hearing.) 

If your neighbour is violating a non-smoking bylaw, the strata council could give them a warning or up to a maximum of a $200 fine per incident, depending on what is set out in the bylaws. Your neighbour could also face legal action. The BC government’s website has more information about dealing with strata bylaw disputes and steps of enforcement

Lisa Frey
Lawson Lundell LLP
Reviewed November 2020