Legal Pot, Anti-Pot Landlord, Property Rights, Tenants’ Privacy…
Talk about a tangled web. Possession of small amounts of marijuana is legal in Washington as a result of last November’s ballot initiative. Medical marijuana was already legal. And of course both of these state laws are trumped by the federal government.
And the plot thickens. Abode Management has sent a letter to all 171 of its Mercer Island (WA) tenants. Possession of marijuana — in any form, any amount — would be grounds for eviction. In addition, all tenants are hereby required to report any other tenants whom they suspect might be using marijuana. And all tenants were required to sign an amendment to their current leases stating that they understood the new rule and would comply with it.
After some protests, Abode Management walked back some of their earlier statements: Tenants would not be required to sign the new amended lease until their current lease had expired.
One of the tenants — Alex Aversano — is an Iraqi war veteran who uses medical marijuana for PTSD and chronic pain. (I wonder how many Abode Management executives have served in Iraq.) He uses a marijuana tincture; no smoking is involved.
Abode Management prohibits ALL smoking on its property — pot, tobacco, you name it. As far as liquid or edible pot is concerned, an Abode Management spokeswoman “left the matter of liquid or edible marijuana cloudy” (from the linked article).
Doug Hiatt, a criminal defense lawyer and medical marijuana advocate, said he didn’t think landlords could ban edible/liquid marijuana from their premises:
“What would they do, search everybody's chocolate-chip cookies? It's reefer madness all over.”
Then again, landlords — depending on what level of douchebaggery they want to stoop to — can always fall back on federal anti-marijuana laws. Nobody has done this yet, but Washington’s largest association of landlords has reminded all of their property managers that they have the option of squealing to the feds if any pothead tenants start getting uppity.
Landlords’ property rights, strict federal laws against pot, a person’s right to partake in a legal drug in their own home — the whole thing will just get more tangled before it gets resolved.
On the upside, Doug Hiatt speculated that some landlords might start renting and advertising pot-friendly apartment buildings:
“This is America. If there's a way to make money, I think they'll do it.”