Is a grow-op registry a great idea? Will it help consumers? Yes, and yes.
But it won’t be easy to implement, and I already see massive logistical problems…
“OREA Renews Call For Grow-Op Registry”
REM – February 2013
Ninety-six per cent of Ottawa residents agree they want to know if the home they’re planning on purchasing was formerly used as a marijuana grow-op (MGO) or clandestine drug lab, according to a study by Ipsos Reid for the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).
The poll found that almost one in four (24 per cent) of Ottawans report seeing or knowing of homes in their neighbourhood that have been used as MGOs or drug labs.
“The prevalence of these homes in Ottawa is quite frankly, alarming,” says Pat Verge, an Ottawa area Realtor and member of OREA’s Board of Directors. “Homes used as grow ops and/or clandestine labs pose significant health and safety risks to individuals, families, and communities all over the province.”
Locally, the City of Ottawa approved a recent bylaw regarding the prohibition, inspection and remediation of former marijuana grow-ops. The bylaw mandates the registration of work orders on the title of a property used as a former grow op.
The bylaw would allow home buyers to find out if the property was a former MGO by doing a title search before they complete the purchase.
Verge says: “Eighty eight per cent of Ontarians support the creation of a province-wide registry of former MGOs and clandestine labs. As consumers they have the right to know anything and everything about the home that they are planning on purchasing – especially when not knowing could put themselves and their family at serious risk.”
Exposure to mould and toxins associated with MGOs and clandestine drug labs can cause serious health problems, including allergic (immunological) reactions, toxic effects and infection.
Toronto Public Health says that MGOs are distinct from typical types of premises contaminated with mould in that they have been used for criminal activities that may have resulted in the creation of environmental hazards, as well as electrical and structural hazards.
The potential presence of known hazardous, toxic and flammable substances associated with clandestine labs presents an immediate and continuing risk to anyone exposed to these substances, says Toronto Public Health.
The idea of a grow-op registry is a good one, and I think consumers would undoubtedly benefit from it.
But I see some problems in its implementation, maintenance, and ultimately the fallout from its existence.
Here are the major issues as I see them:
1) Definition of “Grow Op”
A few months ago, I was doing a termite inspection on a home in Riverdale that my clients were making a bid for.
While the termite instructor wandered about, I made small talk with the seller. I asked him if he ever used the 3rd floor balcony, and to my surprise, he said, “Only to grow pot.”
I have nothing against recreational marijuana users, and to perfectly honest, I don’t care if somebody grows a plant on their balcony. But I was SHOCKED that the seller would say this on the morning of “offer day” as he was expecting multiple offers on a $1 Million home!
So what constitutes a “grow operative?” What if I had inserted a clause into our offer that said, “The Seller hereby acknowledges that the premises has never been used as a grow-operative”? Could I have called his bluff? Would he be committing fraud?
What is a grow-op?
What kind of drugs? How many plants? What kind of time period?
Is a guy growing one plant in jeopardy of having his house added to the “Grow Op Registry?”
What about a guy growing two plants? Or ten plants?
What is a grow-op?
Well, 230 King Street East, #222 was a grow-op! The girl who lived there in 2010 was busted with SIXTY marijuana plants in an elaborate hydroponic setup in her bedroom. Of course, when the unit was sold, I assume no representation was made by the seller, but isn’t that exaclty why we need a “Grow Op Registry” in the first place?
So if sixty plants is a grow-op, and one plant isn’t, then where is the line drawn? And more importantly:whodraws it?
Who is going to monitor the registry?
We know it will be some form of government, but will it be one person? A group?
Will they or he/she be responsible for one city, one province, or the whole country?
Where do they draw the boundaries?
Is each city, county, or town responsible for their own Grow-Op Registry?
Who pays for this? Taxpayers? How many jobs will this create?
What are their duties? How many people are required? How many hours per week?
I think you get the drift. Municipal politics in Toronto has never been more embarassing, so imagine if every city was now required to create and monitor a Grow-Op Registry? Rob & Doug to the rescue!
3) Accuracy, Authenticity, Consistency
As the Grow-Op Registry gains momentum and becomes something that is counted on by buyers, it won’t be long before sellers of suspicious properties count on the lack of any “registration” of their property as a way of showing buyers that there is nothing to fear.
It can work both ways.
At what point will consumers assume that a certain percentage of grow-ops have been registered?
What good is a registry if it only identifies one out of every thousand grow-ops? I guess it’s important, in case that one house goes on the market, but how much would consumers be able to rely upon this registry?
And what level of consistency should they expect? If 1,000 properties are registered in 2014, and then 200 in 2015, does that mean that marijuana growing is down by 80%? Or does that just mean that the folks at the registry office were taking more time off that year?
4) Legal Ramifications
Here’s a situation…
What if there was a marijuana grow-op at 123 Smith Street, and the house was sold – with full disclosure, and then torn down to the ground. What then?
If a new house was built on the grounds where the old house once stood, would 123 Smith Street still appear in the Grow-Op Registry?
That wouldn’t be fair, would it?
Would there be an application process to remove a house from the Registry? Who would oversee this? What if the application was denied?
Well, then it would produce the single greatest and most lucrative word in the legal dictionary: litigation.
I can just see how many people would object to having their home(s) listed in a Grow-Op Registry, no matter who oversees the registry.
In the end, I think it’s a fantastic idea, but one that’s all too simple to be any good.
I’ve heard about a Grow-Op Registry a dozen times in the last decade, but it’s never been put into place, and I think it would take a lot of people a heckuva lot of time to implement one effectively!
If I can rattle off the four issues above in a half-hour, just think of how many more issues could arise.
Now, how about that Long Gun Registry, eh?