Legal Marijuana and Massachusetts Renters’ Rights
Last November, the state of Massachusetts legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults who are 21 and older. Despite this, Federal law still classifies cannabis as an illegal drug. What are renters’ rights regarding the use of marijuana?
Even in Massachusetts, while it’s legal to smoke marijuana, public consumption is not allowed. Homeowners can do as they please, but there are several potential obstacles for renters who want to use cannabis in their apartments.
Landlords Call the Shots
In Colorado, some lawyers have advised landlords to add a marijuana clause to their rental contracts. This is to remind potential tenants that marijuana is an illegal drug on a Federal level and they do not allow it on the premises. Landlords in Massachusetts could easily follow suit.
Other landlords have gone the route of asking tenants about their marijuana needs in applications. The law in Massachusetts also allows residents to possess marijuana for personal use. However, property owners can forbid this in their rental units, if they choose. Not even renters in public housing with medical marijuana prescriptions are permitted to smoke or possess marijuana.
What’s important to understand is that marijuana smokers are not a protected class of renters.
Growing Operations Pose Serious Risks
While smoking marijuana in a rental property may be cause for concern, growing the plant also poses legitimate dangers. For starters, the powerful lights used to grow marijuana can cause fires when not properly attended to. Tenants have also been known to cause structural damage to the buildings where they reside when trying to run a growing operation. These endeavors can also cause mold problems due to the humidity needed to grow the plants.
Another potential risk of allowing renters to grow marijuana is that it could attract burglars and thieves to the area, posing a general threat to the safety of other tenants.
Even though state law permits residents to grow marijuana, landlords are still well within their right to prohibit this type of activity in their rental units.
A New Rental Market is Emerging
Colorado was the first of two states (Washington) to legalize recreational marijuana use in 2012. That eventually led to the creation of Weed Rentals, a website that offers cannabis-friendly, short-term rentals of vacation properties.
The company has plans to move into the Massachusetts rental market in 2017. This niche offers landlords who allow marijuana consumption a new opportunity.
A Little Common Sense Goes a Long Way
Renters and landlords alike will benefit from open communication in this new era of legal marijuana. Rental applications should include questions about marijuana and renters should be transparent about whether or not they intend to consume and/or grow it.
At the very least, property owners should discuss the topic with potential renters. However, in terms of renters’ rights, landlords have the final say about what is and isn’t allowed.
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