Real estate professionals meeting with minister to discuss drug house registry

The formation of a central registry for all known Manitoba houses used as drug production sites will be one of the main topics discussed during a meeting with Consumer Protection Minister Ron Lemieux on June 9,  Lorne Weiss, the chairman of the Manitoba Real Estate Association’s (MREA) political action committee, told the Real Estate News in a telephone interview.
“We’re going to discuss how to begin the process to establish an on-going registry for grow-ops,” said Weiss.
“We’re unable to obtain accurate and timely information about drug production houses,” added Weiss. “There’s just no source of information available to us.”
Weiss said Winnipeg Police and the RCMP only track drug production houses for a year, yet after that REALTORS® are expected by provincial law regulated by the Manitoba Securities Commission to disclose to their clients that a house was used as a drug production site.
“Whether a house contained a marijuana grow-up or meth lab, after 12 months, there’s no way for us to know, but we still have to make full disclosure to our clients.”
Weiss said a standard for remediation of former drug production houses and a process to monitor whether or not the remediation has been done will also be on the agenda when MREA members talk to the minister.
Weiss said the discussion with the minister will be based in part on the Alberta government’s experience. An assistant minister of justice was given the task of writing a report on grow-ops and make recommendations to the Alberta government on what actions to take.
“The Alberta government has been very proactive on the issue of grow-ops and providing information to the public,” added Weiss.
“In three just months, after talking to stakeholders in Alberta, the assistant deputy minister came up with 37 recommendations, which were all accepted by the government.
“The report was very well done and it took just three months to finish, so we believe the Manitoba government can do the same thing.”
Without a central public registry that remains visible to the public, dangerous facts can remain hidden, along with unknown public health dangers, behind many walls across Manitoba, according to the MREA
Behind walls, in painted basements and other hidden places — that can easily be covered up by the seller before a house is put on the market — REALTORS® don’t always know which homes were once used to cook up batches of chemical drugs or to grow crops of marijuana.
“Houses used as grow-ops can be full of mould, dangerous gases and other toxins,” said Weiss. 
“There can also be hidden structural and electrical problems that we have no way of knowing about,” Weiss explained.
“A drug production site registry is a classic example of good use of public authority to provide standardized information that enables citizens to make informed judgements,” wrote Claude Davis, who chairs the MREA’s grow-ops task force, in an April 25 letter to Premier Greg Selinger and several cabinet ministers.
Davis said the expense of setting up and operating an on-line public registry would be modest and could be operated in conjunction with existing databases.
Without a central registry, according to Weiss, an unsuspecting consumer may unknowingly purchase a former drug production house listed for sale. 
“A house can also be fixed up, and as long as there’s no remediation standard, then it can be resold to an unsuspecting client,” added Weiss.
One answer for the problem of remediation is for a municipal official to accompany police during a drug bust, Weiss explained.
“In Winnipeg, it would be the Office of the Fire Commissioner, who can determine if a house is safe for re-occupancy,” he added. “It’s a discretionary practice right now, but it should be mandatory and the provincial government has the power to make it mandatory.”
If problems were noted following a bust in a house used as a drug production site, Weiss said the Office of the Fire Commissioner would do a follow-up inspection to make sure a proper clean-up and remediation work was performed.
“It’s up to the province to create a process that all Manitoba municipalities can participate in,” added Weiss.