Legalized marijuana growing in rentals is a novel concern for landlords and property managers. Most rental owners that operate in one of the states that have legalized marijuana have likely come up against an interesting conundrum: Do they have to allow the legal growing of marijuana on their properties?
It’s a tricky question, and as with all tough legal queries, you will need more than just my advice. I’m only 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. It would depend on what you’re going for with that.
Legalized Marijuana Growing: A Matter of Perspective
This issue becomes a bit problematic for landlords or property managers who view the practice similarly to cigarette smoking. Why? Because in the states that have decriminalized marijuana cultivation, it’s also seen as a medical necessity—and rightfully so.
Marijuana is used in pain management and treatment instead of heavier narcotics. It is also often used to help with anxiety issues or problems with tolerating medications used in specific treatments of chronic illnesses. So while some may have images of Cheech and Chong wrecking the place in their minds, many people who use weed do so for valid reasons.
Most properties have something in the lease—a clause or a policy against using illegal drugs. That makes sense because the residents’ safety comes first and many types of illicit drug use also go hand in hand with criminal activity. Not only that, such policies tend to protect you and the landowner by keeping compliant with 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 like to make some plans?
As usual, it will depend on the state laws concerning such matters; however, for general intents and purposes, you have a choice. Now, this isn’t just a moral or ethical question; it will also involve how you protect your investment. Even when it’s not a tricky legal issue, it can be somewhat complicated because weighing the pros and cons—as with many problems in property management—can be challenging.
Understanding the Law
If you happen to have a property in a state where marijuana cultivation is allowed, the law is that growers have a card and are growing for themselves. They can have up to six mature plants and 18 immature plants. A mature plant will be about 12 feet tall, whereas younger plants are seedlings and the like. If their card allows for cultivating for others, the information you need on what they can and cannot do is also on the card.
Now, can you require proof? Again, that depends on the state. In Oregon, for instance, when the legislation first went through, you could not. However, a precedent was set. Not only can you require that your renters have your permission nowadays; you can also have that as a standard clause in your rental agreement.
Moreover, tenants must show you their cards if you ask to see them. In contrast, the laws are unclear on what a landlord can and cannot do in Santa Cruz, California. As I mentioned, it does vary from state to state.
Issues Worth Looking Into
One of the significant issues I found in my research on allowing growers isn’t: “Oh, potheads, ew.” Instead, if not properly maintained, any indoor marijuana garden can be a fire hazard and pose issues with mold and rot. That in itself is likely a valid reason not to allow such activity.
A marijuana plant can be a considerable fire hazard due to the amount of lighting and other equipment needed for growing. That will be an even more significant concern if you provide electricity with rent. 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.
Here are some more valid concerns and counterarguments against legalizing marijuana cultivation in rental properties:
- Property Owner Rights: Landlords should have the right to determine what activities are allowed on their properties. Some property owners might have legitimate concerns about damage to the property, increased utility costs, or other disruptions caused by cultivation.
- Safety and Nuisance Concerns: Growing marijuana requires specific environmental conditions that could lead to mold, fire hazards, and other safety issues. Neighbors might also be concerned about strong odors and potential disturbances.
- Complex Regulation: Regulating marijuana cultivation in rental properties would require establishing clear guidelines for tenants, landlords, and law enforcement. Balancing personal freedom with public safety could be challenging.
- Enforcement Challenges: Ensuring that tenants comply with regulations and restrictions could be difficult for landlords and authorities, potentially leading to conflicts and disputes.
- Unintended Consequences: Legalizing cultivation could inadvertently lead to higher energy consumption, particularly if indoor growing becomes prevalent. This could have negative environmental impacts.
- Community Impact: The presence of marijuana cultivation in rental properties might have unintended consequences on the community’s social fabric and property values.
- Federal and Local Laws: The legal status of marijuana varies at the federal and state levels in many places. Aligning local regulations with federal laws, especially in areas where marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, could be a challenge.
So, what do you think about the impact of marijuana legalization, particularly concerning their cultivation in rental properties? Are there details that could be modified to protect both medical growers and property owners better?
In contemplating the legalization of growing marijuana in rental properties, policymakers and society must carefully consider various perspectives to strike a balance between individual rights, property owner rights, public safety, and community interests.