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Medical marijuana war heats up over grow-op in Etobicoke apartment

Landlord Shiv Bhardwaj's tenants have caused more than $24,000 damage with a legal medical marijuna grow op.

DALE BRAZAO / TORONTO STAR

Landlord Shiv Bhardwaj’s tenants have caused more than $24,000 damage with a legal medical marijuna grow op.

By:  News, Investigations , Published on Mon Oct 21 2013

A Toronto landlord says he’s at the end of his rope trying to evict a couple who caused more than $24,000 damage with a legal marijuana grow-op in his Etobicoke apartment.

“I am financially and emotionally drained,” says landlord Shiv Bhardwaj.

But the tenants in this year-long battle are appealing the ruling of a provincial tribunal which determined they caused the damage, and say it already existed before they moved in. They accuse the landlord of using their federally authorized grow-op in a converted second bedroom as an excuse to renovate the dilapidated apartment, and have them pay for it.

“There is no damage,” said tenant Rebecca Rochon. “The only damage is from the ceiling because there is a hole in the roof. We’re packing up to move. We’ve had enough of him.”

When the Star recently visited the second-floor apartment on the Queensway near Islington Ave., it was home to three dozen marijuana plants in various stages of growth.

Eight security cameras installed by the tenants — one out back, one in front and six inside — streamed footage to a television monitor because the tenants fear their plants would be stolen. An industrial fan vented air from the growing room outside. Tenant-installed wiring inside PVC pipes ran from the kitchen to the growing room.

The apartment is above an all-you-can-eat Indian restaurant in a strip mall that includes an adult video store and an erotic massage parlour.

Rochon, 35, has a federal licence to grow 39 marijuana plants to help manage a form of muscular disease. Her partner and fellow tenant, Henry Walburg, 46, a motorcycle-driving former rooming house operator, has a permit to grow 15 plants to quell pain from two “blown out knees” and severe arthritis.

Rochon is also allowed to store up to 1,755 grams of dried marijuana and Walburg 675 grams. Both receive Ontario Disability Support payments, more than $2,000 between them.

They are among the 37,000 Canadians with permits to use or grow medical marijuana, up from 500 in 2001. A recent news release from the federal health department noted “this rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health, safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce marijuana in their homes.”

Bhardwaj said a new federal law that, beginning April 1, will make it illegal to grow medical marijuana at home can’t come soon enough. Users will be required to purchase the drug from a licensed provider and it will be couriered to their home.

The couple moved in June 2012. Rent was $900 a month. By October, Bhardwaj had applied for an eviction order for nonpayment of rent. The provincial Landlord and Tenant Board gave them time to pay… READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE ON TheStar.com

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