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How Will Marijuana Legalization Affect Landlords?

January 11, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Images of long lines of pot buyers snaking outside recreational marijuana shops in Colorado have dominated the news since January 2nd.

The sale and consumption of marijuana will be next be legalized in the state of Washington, and there is activism and discussion in several states – Alaska, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont and New York – to follow suit and legalize pot.

As marijuana legalization sweeps across the country, Landlords need to consider how it will affect their rental properties and leasing practices. If pot is legalized in New York what can a Landlord do? Can a Landlord prohibit marijuana consumption on her rental property? And if so, what is the most effective way of doing so?

In Colorado, Landlords are already dealing with the issue of melding pot-smoking tenants with others who see it as a nuisance in both multifamily buildings and single-family neighborhoods.

Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, so assuming your lease has a provision prohibiting any illegal activity on your property (which it should for a variety of reasons, not least of which is limiting the Landlord’s liability to potential crime victims), this could be one route to consider if you wish to prohibit/limit marijuana consumption in your rental properties, even in states that have legalized the substance.

But, as more states legalize or move towards legalization, the federal government’s response has been hazy at best, and it may condone pot use in some states.

But regardless of legality, Landlords who want to prohibit marijuana consumption in their rentals can still do so by using carefully drafted lease provisions.

As a Landlord, you can – and in some jurisdictions may be required to – prohibit smoking in your rental units. That likely can include smoking marijuana. If you don’t have a smoking ban in place, now is a good time to phase it in. Some folks will use and consume marijuana in edible form – which use will be much more difficult to detect and restrict – but most use will be smoking, which is more easily restricted.

Regardless of how Landlords decide to address the issue of marijuana consumption in their rental properties, it appears this issue is here to stay.