While the U.S Federal Law deems the usage of marijuana as being illegal, most states do not have very clear laws or policies in place with regard to the same. This has led to a dilemma between the landlords and the tenants who possess state medical cards permitting the use of marijuana. In November 2010, the state of Arizona passed a law that made the sale of limited amount/quantities of marijuana legal to those who possessed a medical card approved by the state. So how does a property manager deal with this? Let us first understand how the laws pertaining to the possession and usage of marijuana have affected landlords.
How has this affected landlords?
The law passed explicitly states that no institution, school or landlord can refuse to enroll or rent/lease out property to a person who possesses a state approved card permitting him/her the use of marijuana for medical purpose. It further goes on to mention that such a person cannot be penalized. If an institution, school or landlord fails to comply with the law, the state would withdraw the benefits enjoyed under license and impose a monetary fine.
So what does a property manager do to safeguard him/herself in such a situation?
In adherence to the Arizona state laws governing the usage of medical marijuana, a landlord cannot refuse to rent out property to a person who bears a card approved by the state. However, he or she may take the following precautions:
- In consultation with an attorney and the landlord, the property manager can include specific clauses in the rental lease. The lease could include â€˜no smoking,â€™ â€˜anti-drugâ€™ and â€˜anti-crimeâ€™ related clauses. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act speaks about discrimination of users who possess medical cards but in no way specifies whether a landlord can allow the usage (smoking and growth) of marijuana at the premise or not. Property managers and landlords should also keep in mind that marijuana can be consumed in many forms and when a landlord restricts the smoking of marijuana, he/ she is in no way discriminating.
- The rental agreement should clearly spell out the allowances and prohibition with regard to the usage of medical marijuana. It should not have areas left to the discretion of the understanding of the tenant. It is the responsibility of the property manager to discuss and explain such rules and clauses with the tenant.
- The rental lease must clearly specify which types of medical marijuana are allowed in the premise. The property manager would require legal expertise when framing such clauses in accordance with state laws. It is his/her responsibility to explain the rental agreement and such clauses pertaining to the usage and possession of medical marijuana. Should there be a dispute between the landlord and the tenant in the future, the property manager will not be held responsible.
- With reference to growing cannabis, the property manager must inform the tenant that he/she must obtain written permission from the landlord. However, keeping the safety of the rental premises and the health concerns of all tenants associated with the premise, the growth, and cultivation of marijuana is prohibited, regardless of it being permitted in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Unattended to, this violation may affect the serving of a notice of Immediate and Irreparable Breach of Lease Agreement by the landlord.
- It is the responsibility of the property manager to explain to the tenant that he/she is under obligation to inform the landlord, should the status of his medical marijuana card be changed or stand revoked. When the card stands revoked, possession of marijuana, irrespective of usage, is considered illegal and the landlord can issue a notice of Immediate and Irreparable Breach of Lease Agreement.
- While Arizona state law legalizes the usage of marijuana by individuals who possess a medical card approved by the state, landlords can confine its usage. Upon agreement, a tenant may only use and possess marijuana within his/her premise unit after shutting the doors and windows. If this agreement is violated and the tenant is found consuming marijuana in a common area of the rented premises, the landlord can file a notice for Immediate and Irreparable Breach of Lease Agreement.
- Tenants who possess a medical marijuana card must follow the prescribed / applicable amounts in line with the guidelines set forth by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The violation may lead to the tenant being served a notice of Immediate and Irreparable Breach of Lease Agreement by the landlord.
- If the tenant is found to be indulging in the sale of marijuana or the transfer of it, the matter is considered to be a criminal offense under U.S Federal Law. He/she will be served a notice of Immediate and Irreparable Breach of Lease Agreement by the landlord requiring him/ her to vacate the rented premises.
- Non-residents and guests of those who possess medical marijuana cards are not permitted the use, possession or cultivation of the substance, even within the premise of the medical card holder who has rented the premises. This also applies to guests and non-residents who are medical card holders themselves. A breach would affect the termination of the rental agreement.
The above points in no way validate, discriminate or directly prohibit the usage of medical marijuana. The onus lies with the landlord and the rental agreement signed between the parties. While there could be various interpretations, legal counsel ought to be taken and the rental agreement should specifically mention the use and limitations of medical marijuana. Property managers are mediators between landlords and tenants. Thus, it is the responsibility of the property manager to take the tenant through the rental lease and thoroughly explain the clauses that specify the usage and possession of medical marijuana and the possible consequences should these clauses be violated by the tenant.