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B.C. strata pot, tobacco dispute ends in $13,000 in fines and legal fees

A complaint said smells emanated from bathroom drains, plug outlets, the master bedroom, upstairs bedroom and the kitchen cupboards.
marijuana smoke
B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal has upheld fines as well as costs in a strata pot, tobacco-smoking dispute.

B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) has charged a Surrey strata owner $13,336 in fines and legal fees in a dispute about smoking pot and tobacco in his suite.

James Graham owns a strata lot in a building where the strata says someone has been smoking marijuana, cigarettes or both, in breach of strata bylaws. The strata said it has imposed fines, but Graham continued to smoke in the unit.

Graham denied smoking inside, according to an Aug. 11 decision from the tribunal.

Tribunal member Nave Shukla said the strata sought an order that Graham pay $800 in fines for the alleged bylaw violations as well as an order that he cease smoking and vaping any substance in the unit or on strata property.

The strata also sought reimbursement for the legal expenses it incurred enforcing bylaws.

The strata bylaw allows anyone with a valid medical marijuana licence or with a letter from a doctor confirming the need to consume marijuana for medical purposes to smoke marijuana in a strata lot.

The bylaw also said anyone falling under the exception who smokes marijuana within a strata lot must not allow the smoke to escape the strata lot such that it can be smelled by another resident. 

Graham did not fall under the exemption, the ruling stated.

The strata said the smoke and odour coming from the unit interfered with a complainant’s use and enjoyment of the neighbouring strata lot and was having a detrimental impact on her health.

The complainant reported the smell of marijuana and tobacco smoke permeating the neighbouring strata lot more than 260 times between January 2021 and March 2022. The complaint noted the smell emanated from the drain openings in a bathroom, plug outlets on the walls adjoining Graham's unit, the master bedroom, upstairs bedroom and the kitchen cupboards.

The complaint detailed negative health impacts such as extreme nausea and headaches as well as aggravation of allergies.

“The complainant said there were days the smell was so bad that she could not work from her home office, take baths in the upstairs bathroom, or make breakfast in the kitchen,” Shukla said. “The complainant also noted some days where she was forced to leave the neighbouring strata lot because the smell was particularly unbearable.”

Two council members visited the complainant’s unit and found the marijuana smell to be strong.

Graham denied smoking in his unit and said the strata failed to prove that any smoke or smell came from inside. He argued the strata had not proven it was him who was smoking.

Still, Shukla noted, “He also said that he would take his cigarette and marijuana smoking outside, beyond strata property and common property.”

Finally, Shukla said, “I find that the strata has proven on a balance of probabilities that the smell created a nuisance to the complainant and interfered with her ability to use and enjoy her strata lot.”

In the end, Shukla said Graham owed  $800 in fines, $4,956.49 for pre-CRT legal expenses, $7,320 for CRT legal expenses, $35.34 in prejudgment interest under the Court Order Interest Act and $225 in CRT fees.

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