Very little stands between a former grow-op house and an unwitting buyer, posing a threat to Yukoners looking to buy “their largest asset,” says Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.
Currently, buyer knowledge of the past history of a property depends solely upon a full-disclosure statement completed at the time of purchase.
“That’s less than sufficient protection,” said Mitchell.
“We’re depending on realtors to enforce that, that would be as if we were also depending on realtors to enforce workers’ compensation regulations, engineering, electrical safety — that shouldn’t be the realtor’s sole responsibility,” he added.
Instead, the territory should maintain a registry of former grow-ops, accessible by potential property owners, said Mitchell.
“We’re treating houses the same way we treat used cars; it’s up to you to figure it out,” he said.
Any house identified by police as a former grow-op would be placed on the registry – carrying renovation and disclosure liabilities in the event of a sale.
However, if an owner made “renovations to the property as laid out by authorities,” it could be given a clean bill of health and removed from the registry, said Mitchell.
Large-scale marijuana grow operations can cause lasting structural damage to a property, posing potential health hazards to future occupants, say official warnings by the RCMP.
Growing marijuana requires high temperature and humidity, which can lead to the formation of fungus and “black mold,” a toxic fungus that can induce nausea, vomiting and bleeding in the lungs and nose after periods of heavy exposure.
Concerns exist that chemicals used in the growing process can permeate the house’s atmosphere and pose other respiratory issues.
Former grow-ops can also be potential fire hazards, resulting from shoddy electrical jobs to bypass the power grid – effectively concealing the large amounts of power used by a grow-op.
Surrey, BC, a major centre of marijuana grow operations, passed legislation in 2007 that increased the ability of fire officials to inspect suspected grow operations.
“We know that grow operations and electrical fires go hand-in-hand,” said Surrey Mayor Diane Watts in an official release.
“The health impacts of living in a grow-op are best described as not well studied,” said Darryl Plecas, and RCMP research chair with experience in grow-operation seizures.
No other territory or province in Canada maintains a comprehensive grow-op registry as suggested by Mitchell.
Currently, management of seized grow-op properties is the responsibility of individual municipalities.
Some groups, including the Calgary Health Region and Winnipeg Police Service, publish the addresses of former grow-ops online.
The idea of introducing comprehensive standards has previously been introduced in other regions of Canada more hard-hit by grow operations.
In mid-2007, Conservative Ontario MPPs called for the imposition of renovation standards upon former homes used as grow-ops – as well as a registry.
In October, the British Columbia Real Estate Board plans to hold a province-wide conference of real estate representatives in order to compare notes and identify the best methods of dealing with former grow-ops.