With marijuana (cannabis) regulations continuing to develop and expand in numerous states around the country, landlords and property managers need to remain in-the-know so that they can make the most-informed decision possible if tenant disputes or fair housing implications arise. Although there are no simple and easy answers, stepping in to handle a situation as soon as possible may be the best course of action for avoiding unwanted legal action.
How Can Property Managers Abide by the Law in Regard to Cannabis?
Below is a list of do's and don'ts to help property managers and landlords abide by federal marijuana laws.
- Review all of your leases and contracts to ensure compliance with both federal and state laws.
- Review marijuana-related legislation and prior cases in or around your area. Stay up-to-date on any related new developments.
- Define and implement clear policies regarding marijuana use on your properties.
- Investigate how renting to legal marijuana users may affect your loan compliance obligations.
- Recognize that you have potential fair housing obligations to tenants who may be affected by smoke.
- Review any existing smoke-free policies to see what effect they have on medical marijuana users.
- Consider asking tenants who smoke marijuana for medical purposes if they could use a different form of the drug such as edibles or tinctures, or use fans to alleviate secondhand smoke issues, provided that you are not in violation of any other state law.
- Don’t stall when it comes to resolving tenant disputes over secondhand marijuana smoke.
- Don’t refuse to make reasonable accommodations for residents with disabilities who are being affected by marijuana smoke.
- Don’t ask current or potential tenants about their medical marijuana status, as doing so may violate HIPAA laws and other privacy rights.
- Don’t assume that medical marijuana users are a protected class under federal fair housing laws, since United States v. Southern Management Corp. established that substance users (i.e., marijuana smokers) are actually excluded from protection.
- Don’t assume that medical marijuana users are not a protected class under state fair housing laws, such as California’s civil-rights act.
- Don’t fail to enforce any smoke-free policies you have implemented.
See Morgan Stewart's Blog post Property Management in the Face of Conflicting Marijuana Laws for more information.
To learn more about Colorado marijuana laws and how it impacts the real estate industry, consider our CE (Continuing Education) course Marijuana and Colorado Real Estate - Up in Smoke!
Written and Published by: VanEd