Medicinal cannabis user evicted from smoke-free N.S. apartment

Published May 14, 2019 6:50 p.m. ET
Updated May 14, 2019 6:37 p.m. ET
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A Dartmouth, N.S., man with a physical disability is fighting for the right to smoke medicinal pot in a smoke-free apartment, as he takes his battle to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Philip Bennett, 57, was evicted from his apartment on Friday after losing several legal challenges at the provincial Residential Tenancies Board and small claims court.

That night, he slept in his motorized wheelchair out in the woods, which was made worse by the fact it was raining.

“I had to cut a garbage bag to put it over my head,” he told CTV News Atlantic.

Bennett has since taken up temporary residence at a motel, after receiving money from members of the Dartmouth’s medical cannabis community.

He was booted out of his home just three weeks before he could move into social housing.

Before receiving the eviction notice, Bennett had been the subject of complaints from other residents in the building. They had taken issue with Bennett smoking and vaping medical cannabis.

He said he knew the apartment was smoke-free. But due to a debilitating genetic condition that necessitates the use of his wheelchair, Bennett said he needs pot to alleviate some of the physical pain.

Bennett said the rule shouldn't apply to medical cannabis users, saying, “if it was recreational marijuana, I’d respect their rights -- I wouldn't smoke it in that building.”

This was the crux of his argument when he challenged his initial eviction notice back in August with the help of legal aid.

But he ended up losing cases in both small claims court and Nova Scotia’s Residential Tenancies Board.

He believes medical cannabis users should have the right to use pot wherever they live – including smoke-free buildings. Now Bennett says he’s taking his case to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

A lawyer for Eternity Developments, which owns the building where Bennett had lived, provided a statement saying, “Mr. Bennett's continued use of marijuana on the premises was a going concern until the day he was evicted.

"The complaints of several tenants, health related concerns (especially for the youth in the building), and Mr. Bennett's continued failure to follow the house rules all contributed to the decision to proceed with the eviction,” lawyer Craig Arsenault wrote.

Kevin Russell, the head of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, said the case comes down to a fundamental dispute between the rights of tenants who want to smoke or vape versus those who don’t.

“I think we're all looking for clarity on this and this is where the clarity is going to happen is in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court,” he said.


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