NAR Senior Policy Representative Megan Booth presents during the “Medical Marijuana and R.E.” session at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in New Orleans.
Here’s the thing about marijuana laws: Federal trumps state. So even though 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal pot use — and four states have OK’d recreational use — the federal government still says marijuana is illegal. That means landlords and property managers in legal-pot states shouldn’t feel completely safe allowing tenants to smoke on the premises, NAR Senior Policy Representative Megan Booth said during the “Medical Marijuana and R.E.” session at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in New Orleans.
“State marijuana laws haven’t been challenged at the Supreme Court yet,” Booth said. “That’s why they stand.”
She pointed out that federal law gives the government the right to seize finances and property that are connected to illegal activity, including drugs. So technically, landlords who let tenants grow weed in their apartments or smoke it on site for any purpose run the risk of having their real estate property taken from them.
The likelihood of that happening seems slim, as public opinion on marijuana shifts toward pro-legalization along with changing state laws. According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans now believe marijuana should be legal, with 52 percent supportive. That’s up from only 12 percent in 1969.
Still, pressure is being applied to the federal government to act in accordance with federal law. “The U.S. has signed on to global treaties classifying marijuana as one of the heaviest controlled substances,” Booth said. “So there’s some outrage that the U.S. isn’t prosecuting marijuana users here as fiercely.” That pressure should signify to landlords and property managers that risk is present when accepting marijuana use on their properties.
As state marijuana laws change, multifamily properties and condos may need to add lease addenda specifically covering marijuana policies on the premises, Booth said. There also may be new disclosures that are required in the future when selling condos in pot-friendly buildings or homes near property that allow marijuana use, she added. For example, since the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use in some states, there has been an increase in reports of explosions in properties where tenants are growing pot with sophisticated equipment. Smoke and odor could also have an impact on neighbors, and mold from the growing of marijuana — which requires a high level of humidity — could become an issue in multifamily buildings. For all those reasons, it may become necessary to disclose to buyers and renters when they are considering a condo or home in or near properties where marijuana use is allowed.