What Can You Do About Legalized Marijuana Growing In Rentals?

Most property management companies that happen to do business in one of the states where marijuana has been legalized has likely come up against an interesting conundrum: Do I have to allow legal marijuana growing on my property?

It’s a tricky question – and as with all tricky legal questions, my advice isn’t going to be enough for you. I’m just throwing out food for thought and also, giving some starting points for further research and discussion – with a qualified attorney. Pro tip: if your attorney’s Dr. Gonzo, it’s probably a good idea not to take his advice. Or a fantastic idea. I suppose it would depend on what you’re going for with that.

This issue becomes a bit problematic for landlords or property managers that view the issue in a similar light to cigarette smoking – why? Because in the states where marijuana has been decriminalized: it’s also seen as a medical necessity – and rightfully so. It is used in pain management treatment instead of heavier narcotics and is also often used to help with anxiety issues or problems tolerating medications used in certain treatments of chronic illnesses. While some may have images of Cheech and Chong wrecking the place in their minds: the truth is many people who use it do so for very valid reasons.

Most properties have something in the lease – a clause or a policy against the use of illegal drugs. This makes sense, because safety of the residents comes first and well, many types of illicit drug use also go hand in hand with criminal activity. Not only that, having such policies tend to protect you, and the landowner by keeping compliant with both state and federal legislation. So, what happens if you’ve got a property in a marijuana friendly state? Or, what if you’re in a state where it’s still up in the air and you’d just like to make some plans?

As usual, it’s going to really depend on the state laws in respect to such things, however- and this is for general intents and purposes, you actually do have a choice. Now, this isn’t just a moral or ethical question- it’s also one that will involve how you protect your investment. Even when it’s not a tricky legal issue, it can be sort of complicated because weighing the pros and cons- as with a lot of issues in property management, is not always easy.

Now, if you happen to have a property in a state where growing is allowed, the law is that if they have a card and are growing for themselves- they can have up to 6 mature plants and up to 18 immature plants. A mature plant is going to be about 12” tall whereas immature plants are seedlings and the like. If their card allows for growing for others, the information you need respective of what they can and cannot do is on the card. Now, can you require proof? Again, that depends on the state. In Oregon, for instance, when the legislation first went through- no, you could not. However, a precedent was set and now, you can not only require that your renters have your permission- but you can have that as a standard clause in your rental agreement and, they have to show you their cards if you ask to see them. In contrast, in Santa Cruz, California- the laws are a little unclear on what a landlord can and cannot do. As I mentioned, it does vary from state to state.

One of the big issues with allowing the growers that I found in my research isn’t: “Oh, potheads, ew.” Instead, if not properly maintained, any indoor garden can be a fire hazard, and pose issues with mold and rot.  This in and of itself is likely a valid reason to not allow such activity.

The reason this can be a huge fire hazard is due to the amount of lighting and other equipment needed for growing.  If you’re providing electricity included with rent, this is going to be an even larger concern.  Power consumption for indoor growing is very high.  In fact, checking power meters is one of the ways the DEA tracks down growing operations in states where it’s still illegal.

So, what do you think about the impact of legalization- particularly in respect to growing, on property management? Are there changes that could be made to better protect both medical growers and property owners?

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Kurt Kroeck

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By Kurt Kroeck

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