Marijuana And You: Creating a Policy
America is getting to a higher state of mind. As most of RHA members know, Washington legalized the medical and recreational consumption of marijuana via popular vote at the state level 3 years ago. Washington joined Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington D.C. and California along with 24 other states that allow medical uses of the plant. That being said, any consumption of marijuana is still illegal at the Federal level. The modern popularity and legality of the substance leaves property owners and managers in a quandary as to how to set policies around it's consumption and possible cultivation. If your curious as to how you might want to implement a policy on your property, we're gone over a few ideas about how to address this new problem.
It will be interesting to see what happens with this situation over time as eventually these policies are sure to end up in court. In the meantime, there are some things to consider about your policy on marijuana and your property.
Things to consider:
- If you have a mortgage, the terms of your mortgage may require you to maintain compliance with all state and federal laws. Allowing the use of marijuana could expose some risk if someone believes that you've breached your loan documents due to federal laws.
- Owners that have accepted Housing Choice or other voucher programs are required to comply with all federal and local laws and the use of marijuana on the property could result in the allegation of civil or criminal fraud.
- Property owners and their agents/managers can also be liable for the breach of federal laws.
- Insurance companies don't cover damage by illegal activities. If there is a fire or other major problem, your insurance company may not pay out.
It might seem pretty simple as to what the policy should be. If you have a ban on all kinds of smoking on your property, then you might be losing potential tenants, especially in single family homes. If smoking is not allowed on your property (due to cost and other considerations), then it may be smart to only allow it out of doors. If your building has balconies, you can decide if that is acceptable or not.
Here in Washington, if you ban smoking on your property that means smoking of anything including marijuana, tobacco, and e-cigarettes. Use RHAWA’s Smoke Free Addendum to bind your tenants to this in your lease. You can issue a 10 day Comply or Vacate notice if you find a tenant violating this addendum or get complaints about the smoke. Many of our members also worry about the cultivation of marijuana, especially in single family homes. Section K of the RHAWA standard lease bans any illegal activity on the premise including the manufacture of illegal substances. If you want to completely ban the use or cultivation of marijuana on your property then you can do so relying on the specification under federal law. For medical patients, it is considered medicine and our best practice is to advise patients to consume their medicine via a non-flammable means.
No matter what policy you have for your tenants, it looks like marijuana is here to stay. The sooner you can develop a smart policy, the sooner you can get back to enjoying your rental housing portfolio and continuing to offer great housing in our beautiful state.