Living in a legal marijuana state does not necessarily give stoned Bros the freedom to cultivate and smoke weed in just any old housing unit without the risk of catching some unwanted heat from the not-so-friendly neighborhood landlord.
There are some rules to renting property in a state where weed is no longer bound by the ties of prohibition, and it is important that young cannabis enthusiasts be aware of a few particulars before blowing all of their student loan money on backroom grow operations, or even before inviting a bunch of friends over to smoke dope and converse deeply on how cool it is now that the cops can no longer kick down the door and take everyone’s ass to jail.
The question of whether people are allowed to smoke medical or recreational marijuana inside a rented dwelling is a topic that I have been asked to cover over from time to time for the past several years. But the answer is somewhat complex and usually depends on a number of variables that every renter needs to be aware of before signing a lease on that badass pad overlooking the City of Denver.
Since marijuana is still prohibited under federal law, it is technically a risk for landlords to give tenants verbal or written permission to grow and smoke marijuana on their property. Although the Justice Department has taken a hands-off approach to states that have legalized marijuana, the federal government still has the power to swoop in and seize a property owner’s bank accounts and rental units for going along with drug activity.
It is for this reason that many landlords will almost always attach a Crime and Drug-Free Addendum to their leasing agreement that communicates their policy on the cultivation and use of controlled substances. This legal jargon serves as protection against an unwanted DEA shakedown, and it can even be used to bypass the rights of “patients” with severe health issues.
Although the Americans with Disabilities Act requires property owners to accommodate the needs of disabled tenants, which includes allowing them to use certain medications, many landlords are getting around signing leases with medical marijuana cardholders simply because they have a strict, published policy against the use of all controlled substances in place.
Basically, as long as Uncle Sam considers weed to be an illegal drug, landlords are not required by law to rent to those participating in medical marijuana programs as long as the lease contains a drug-free addendum.
It may be drafted something like this:
“Not limiting the broadest possible meaning as defined in this Addendum or at law, Criminal Activity also means the manufacture, growth, sale, distribution, storage, use or possession of a controlled substance (as defined under Section 102 of the Controlled Substance Act (21 USC 802) and/or as defined under CRS 12-22-303, and/or as defined under any other law, and also includes the manufacture, sale, distribution, use or possession of marijuana, marijuana concentrate, cocaine, or any other illegal drug, regardless of amount, and regardless of whether or not manufacture, growth, sale, distribution, use or possession of said drug is considered a misdemeanor or felony under state law. NO MARIJUANA PERMITTED. Resident and Landlord agree that any Criminal Activity as defined in this Addendum or at law is an act which endangers the person and willfully and substantially endangers the property of Landlord, co-residents, and/or other Persons.”
Even in Colorado, where marijuana is legal to buy and grow at home for adults 21 and over, signing a rental agreement with similar language makes it perfectly acceptable for a property owner to immediately terminate a lease if it is discovered that marijuana is being used in anyway. What’s more is the landlord may even be able to file a lawsuit against the renter for smoke and other damages brought on by the cultivation of marijuana.
In short, most property owners simply deal with marijuana in the same manner as cigarette smokers. No smoking means not smoking anything.
“Even in legalization states, you can’t smoke in public, they don’t allow the marijuana equivalent of a bar, and now [your] landlord says you can’t smoke at home either,” said Chris Lindsey of the Marijuana Policy Project in a recent interview with City Lab. “You can end up in a situation where it’s legal, but you can’t smoke anywhere.”
The good news is there are now property owners emerging in legal states that cater to people interested in taking full advantage of legal weed. In Colorado, a realty group by the name of Housing Guru has been connecting stoners with landlords that do not have any issue renting to the cannabis culture. These units are typically a bit more expensive, but they are cheaper than an eviction and a lawsuit.
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