Do Colorado’s weed-friendly laws apply to landlords?
The wave of momentum to legalize marijuana in this country continues to grow.
The change from 25 years ago is stark. Smoking pot just isn’t a big deal in many states. But does that mean landlords have to tolerate it in their rentals?
There are four states and the District of Columbia that have approved recreational weed use and 23 states that allow medical marijuana use.
The four states are Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.
Did you know pot has been legal since November 2012 when Colorado voters approved Amendment 64? The amendment to the state constitution regulates the drug like alcohol. Not until January of 2014 did the pot shops open for business.
Now, registered retail stores can sell marijuana to Colorado citizens for recreational use, and those people can light up in their homes. Under Colorado law, it’s all legal.
If you’re like most people and think the punishment was just recently lifted on pot in Colorado, think again.
According to Norml, it’s been decriminalized in Colorado since 1975.
That law made possessing under an ounce of cannabis a petty offense punishable by a $100 fine. Stricter punishments were in place for possession over an ounce, sale, cultivation, or use or display in public.
What that meant was, if you were in high school and got caught with weed, you paid a $100 fine. That was it. No jail time. No community service.
The 1975 law played well for those who headed to the mountains. Anyone who has spent time on the slopes in Colorado knows skiing and snowboarding go hand in hand with weed.
To put it another way: weed is as much a part of Colorado’s culture as beer.
The measure approved in 2012 just takes all of the confusion out of the equation.
What does that mean for those who grow?
The law allows people to grow up to six marijuana plants per person, with more than three in the mature/flowering stage at any time, according to the Colorado government.
It adds that “No more than 12 total plants are allowed per residence regardless of the number of adults living there. Marijuana plants must be kept in an enclosed, locked area. Take extra precautions to ensure that only authorized adults have access to marijuana plants. You must be 21 and older to have or use retail marijuana. Children and pets should be kept away from plants at all times.”
But how does all of this impact renters and landlords?
Zillow has a useful question-and-answer story with attorney Bret Sachter on this very subject. It covers everything from the states that allow people to grow pot to whether landlords can refuse to allow people to grow in their properties.
For the later of those, here was Sachter’s answer: “In a state that allows either medical or recreational marijuana to be grown in private residences, a landlord can prohibit renters from growing pot by including the rule as a clause in the lease. If the issue comes up after the lease has been signed without such a clause, the landlord would likely need to rely on an anti-drug or crime policy that hopefully was included in the lease.
“The landlord would then need to send written notice of the lease breach, citing the appropriate clause. If the renter continues to grow plants after receiving the written notice, the landlord may attempt to evict the tenant.
“If no such clause exists, the landlord may have difficulty preventing renters from legally growing marijuana during the term of the lease.”
As to whether landlords should put those rules in a lease agreement, Sachter said it is completely up to the individual but they should know the local marijuana laws before they do anything.
“Even in states that allow the consumption of marijuana, smoke or other perceived negative aspects of marijuana use could certainly impact neighbors or other tenants. On the other hand, there is growing evidence of the marketability of openly allowing marijuana use. For example, there are hotels and bed and breakfasts in Washington that use their friendly attitude toward marijuana as a selling point, and this strategy appears to be paying off for some.
“However, if you do choose to prohibit marijuana use to some degree, it is always best to make it clear in the lease. I have seen leases in Washington that prohibit smoking and specify that this prohibition applies equally to cigarettes, cigars, marijuana, and all other types of smoke.
“Furthermore, as marijuana is still illegal under federal law, you can include a clause prohibiting conduct that is unlawful under state and federal law.”
If you put in your lease agreement that you have an anti-drug policy, just as is the case with no smoking or anti-crime clauses, “the legality of marijuana use on a state level is irrelevant; you should be able to enforce the lease and prohibit smoking in the unit.”
If you don’t have that in your lease agreement, it’s going to be incredibly tough to keep them from doing so.