California Lawmakers Trying to Outlaw Pot Smoking on Rental Properties

Although people have been smoking marijuana legally in California for two decades, state lawmakers want to ensure that residents can be prohibited from chiefing the leaf inside their apartments and other rented dwellings if voters approve an initiative this November aimed at ending prohibition.

Assemblyman Jim Wood recently introduced a piece of legislation that would expand a 2011 medical marijuana law that gives property owners the right to prohibit tenants from smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products on leased estates. According to the Sacramento Bee, the proposal—AB 2300—would give landlords permission to ban renters from consuming all smokable cannabis products on their properties. 

At the core of the proposed ban, lawmakers are leaning on research by UC San Francisco that suggests second-hand marijuana smoke can be as detrimental to a person’s heart and blood vessels as second-hand cigarette smoke. On Tuesday, the Assembly Judiciary Committee sided with the outcome of the study, putting their stamp of approval on the bill and sending it to the Assembly floor for further debate. 

“Secondhand smoke, regardless of whether it’s smoke from tobacco or marijuana, is especially problematic in multiunit apartments and condos because the smoke easily travels the windows, doors and other ventilation systems,” Wood said. “It’s a nuisance that tenants should not have to live with.”

Although California law already deems it illegal to smoke medical marijuana in places where tobacco is banned, the California Apartment Association, which is sponsoring the bill, wants a concrete policy put into place that gives landlords the power to outlaw pot smoking on their land. The organization is concerned that with California expected to legalize a recreational marijuana market in the upcoming November election, rental properties will not be protected from the effects of the social stoner.

But even if the state does not approve a law banning the use of marijuana on rental properties, there are already statutes in place that prohibit this activity.

That’s because most leases come with a “drug free” addendum buried inside the rental agreement that prohibits the use of illicit substances, including marijuana, even in states that have made it legal. The conflict between state and federal law makes it risky for landlords to give tenants permission to smoke weed on their property because allowing the use of drugs outlawed under the DEA’s Controlled Substances Act can cause problems with insurance and even bring down the heat of federal authorities. In some cases, landlords could risk having their property seized by the federal government for consenting to the use of marijuana. 

Nevertheless, in some legal states, like Colorado, property managers have started working with pro-marijuana landlords to hook people up with places to live that remain free of all cannabis restrictions. However, tenants are typically spending more in rent than the average market rate to live in a place with a liberal pot policy.

Cannabis advocates are concerned that AB 2300 will cripple the rights of medical marijuana patients—putting them in a position to no longer have the freedom to smoke marijuana in the privacy of their own homes. However, lawmakers argue that patients, and even the average stoner, in the event that California legalizes later this year, would still be able to consume edible pot products on rented land if the legislation goes the distance.

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