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NS Man Evicted for Smoking Medical Cannabis in Smoke-Free Apartment

A Nova Scotia medical cannabis user was forced into homelessness after a tribunal upheld his eviction from a no-cannabis apartment building.

Philip Bennett suffers from spinocerebellar ataxia, a degenerative genetic disorder that causes him pain and limits him to a motorized wheelchair. Bennett requires the immediate relief of inhaled cannabis (either smoked or vaped) for acute pain and tremors. He is also on income assistance because he is too sick to work.

For the first three years after he began using medical cannabis, Bennett says he had no idea his smoke or vapour was disruptive to anyone else. Last year, he says, neighbours began to complain, but when his landlord passed an anti-cannabis policy, he presumed it didn’t apply to him because he was a prescription user and cannabis is necessary for his well-being.

Then he got an eviction notice.

The building superintendent claimed four different tenants had lived in the building above Bennett, and the current tenant was considering moving out. The superintendent also claims she offered to move Bennett to a different unit.

Further, landlord Phillip Haddad’s lawyer claims Haddad suggested Bennett switch to ingested forms of cannabis that Bennett and many other medical cannabis users say offer less immediate relief for severe pain.

Bennett’s lawyer, provided by Nova Scotia Legal Aid, found it was hard to find an expert willing to testify that inhaled cannabis has different medical benefits from ingested cannabis, partly because there is little clinical evidence to date. (As is the case with most medical evidence pertaining to cannabis, research is still just beginning.)

She argued kicking a tenant out due to the smell of the medication he must take was essentially discrimination, and that landlords shouldn’t tell tenants how to treat medical conditions.

Bennett lost his appeal, and was evicted last Friday. He spent the first night in his wheelchair in the woods with a garbage bag over his head to keep the rain off

Jesse B. Staniforth's Bio Image
Jesse B. Staniforth

Jesse Staniforth reports on cannabis, food safety, and Indigenous issues. He is the former editor of WeedWeek Canada.

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