A 57-year-old man in Dartmouth, N.S., could soon be without a home because he consumed medical cannabis on the balcony of his apartment.
Philip Bennett consumes cannabis by smoking or vaping to control severe chronic pain caused by his illness—he has genetic disorder spinocerebellar ataxia. Bennett uses a motorized wheelchair, thereby, limiting his mobility and ability to walk a distance from the building in order to medicate, CBC reports.
Bennett was told by his landlord, who has banned the use of cannabis in the building, including on balconies, that his rule-breaking had forced another tenant to move.
The landlord now wants Bennett out of the building by May 1.
“If they kick me out of here I got no place to go,” Bennett told the CBC. “You won’t have to worry about me vaping, you won’t have to worry about me paying rent, you won’t have to worry about nothing, everybody should be nice and happy. They put a wheelchair guy on the side of the road. Congratulations.”
Bennet has been on disability for 17 years as a result of the condition. Spinocerebellar ataxia is a disorder in which symptoms—such as uncoordinated gait, abnormal speech, problems with vision, cognitive issues with learning and memory, and difficulty with balance and co-ordination—worsen significantly over time.
Bennett’s case highlights a number of legal questions that have come to attention since legalization came into force. Many landlords and condo associations have outright banned the use of combustible cannabis onsite. This, critics say, has effectively created a class system of access to cannabis, particularly in provinces where public consumption is illegal. Nova Scotia is one such province, where under the Smoke-free Places Act the consumption of combustible cannabis outside a private home can net users a $2,000 fine.
While medical users can consume oils or home-made edibles; smoking and vaping have the quickest onset and are generally the go-to for pain relief.
Bennett’s lawyer Tammy Wohler, whom he has hired to fight the case via Nova Scotia Legal Aid, says that the landlord’s actions amount to discrimination. “In my view, it’s the duty of the landlord to accommodate Bennett’s disability, in this case the way to accommodate him would be to simply allow him to smoke or vape it on his balcony,” Wohler said. “This is not an undue hardship on the landlord in my view.”
So far, a tenancy officer and small claims court have both decided in favour of Bennett’s landlord. Wohler is now appealing the decision to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
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