CALGARY, CANADA – Some homes are literally going to pot.

Canadian real estate agents in two different cities recently were warned to guard their clients’ interests if they consider buying property where police arrested previous occupants for growing marijuana indoors.

One police chief claimed such home-grow operations could turn homes into “toxic chemical wastelands.” A Canadian real estate spokesman added they also may be breeding grounds for mold.

Growing marijuana in private homes is a practice that has increased substantially over the years in the U.S. and Canada, law enforcement officials say. Contributing to the boom are relaxed public attitudes toward the drug, and laws in a limited number of states that permit its use for medicinal purposes.

Police in London, Ontario, have busted 182 home-grow operations in the last two years, Chief Murray Faulkner said April 28 (2004) during a local Better Business Bureau meeting. In most cases, according to the London Free Press, homeowners didn’t live in the houses but used them just to grow pot.

“The number of houses discovered to have grow operations in them seems to be doubling every year,” Don Dickson, president of the Calgary (Canada) Real Estate Board, told the Calgary Sun. That newspaper characterized (April 26, 2004) expanding grow operations in Calgary as “low-risk, high-profit” ventures that slowly overwhelm police resources.

Home growers usually require a lot of electricity to maintain optimal light and heat conditions for their illegal plants, along with higher moisture and pesticide use. Faulkner and Dickson fear homes used for indoor pot cultivation may be improperly wired, impregnated with hazardous chemicals, or infested by molds that cause allergic reactions, asthma, or other respiratory illnesses.

Canadian insurers estimate the average cost to repair a property that housed a grow operation at between $60,000 and $80,000, Dickson says. He also contends that agents who fail to address buyers’ questions about grow operations face charges of professional negligence.

The potential for problems with home-grows has become so severe that Faulkner says the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police is urging its municipalities to require that buyers be warned of operations in previously occupied properties. “It’s something that we are going to be examining because we think it’s a public safety issue,” he said.

Dickson reports Calgary Realtors are looking at a similar recommendation.

The Calgary Sun suggests that buyers concerned about the potential of a home-grow should look for:

  • A skunky smell, especially in the basement
  • An electricity meter that appears to have been moved or altered
  • Rotted window frames

This article was originally published at Joe Zlomek’s Docket