8 REALTOR® JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2015 REALTORMAG.REALTOR.ORG
Can You Just Say No?
Marijuana is becoming legal in more states, which may make
it tougher for landlords seeking to enforce their own bans.
As the movement to legalize marijuana
blazes through the nation, landlords and
building managers may be wondering
whether the right to ban the drug from
their properties is going up in smoke.
The truth around the issue is a bit hazy.
State laws legalizing some form of pot
use don’t prevent landlords from writing
lease agreements prohibiting marijuana
on their properties. “If a landlord does not
want marijuana cultivated, grown, or used
on the property, the lease should directly
address this and state such prohibition,”
says Lesley Walker, associate counsel for
the National Association of REALTORS®.
“For existing lease agreements, a land-
lord could consider having tenants sign
an addendum that specifically addresses
the presence and use of marijuana on the
But the laws don’t necessarily sup-
port such agreements either. When a
state law says no person shall be penal-
ized for using marijuana, does evicting a
tenant who violates a property owner’s
no-pot policy constitute a penalty?
The question is still being tested in the
legal system, but housing experts say
state courts are likely to err on the side
of “yes.” So for landlords and property
managers, there’s real concern not only
about creating a zero-tolerance policy
but also about enforcing one.
Twenty-three states and the District
of Columbia have legalized medical
marijuana, and four of those states—
Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington—have also legalized recreational pot.
(Voters in D.C. also approved recreational
marijuana in November, but the measure
was struck down by Congress.) And while
no state explicitly requires landlords to
accommodate tenants who wish to use
the drug at home, many of these states
prohibit landlords from discriminating
against medical marijuana patients by
refusing to rent to them.
Still, marijuana laws are in flux. The
The State’s Prerogative
federal government, which has long held
that any form of pot use is illegal, e;ec-
tively ended its ban on medical marijuana
in late December after President Barack
Obama signed a bill prohibiting federal
funds from being spent to prosecute
medical marijuana users. This may
change the situation in California, for
example, where residents with medical
conditions have the right to “full and
equal accommodations” in housing. Be-
fore the recent federal change, such pro-
tection didn’t necessarily include medical
marijuana, says June Barlow, general
counsel for the California Association of
REALTORS®. But the new law could lead
to medical marijuana accommodations in
It’s incumbent on practitioners who
work as property managers to monitor
changing laws, as more than half of the
top of mind