July 2011: Residential Landlords & Medical Cannabis Patients

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Landlords, maybe you’ve been unsure about your rights and responsibilities, and are worried about renting to patients. Americans for Safe Access hears from tenants and landlords regularly and we’d like to clear a few things up!

Unfortunately, in California there are no explicit protections for patients who are tenants; patients who rent are often passed over as tenants or evicted for using the medicine that works best for them. Often, it isn’t because the landlord is passing judgment, but rather they have concerns about civil or criminal liability. While medical cannabis is legal at the state level, there continues to be no medical defense to possession or cultivation of cannabis at the federal level. Landlords sometimes worry that they might lose their property or be held criminally responsible for their tenant’s actions.

Landlords who support medical cannabis should rest easy. ASA has not heard of any forfeiture actions against residential landlords of patients in California; similarly, criminal liability has never been assessed against a landlord renting a residence to a patient. While the risk may seem high, even if a landlord should face civil or criminal charges, there are several successful defenses and legal resources available to landlords.

Now that you know the facts, what should you to rent to patients in California? First, remove any lease language that references violations of federal law. Next, call your federal lawmakers and tell them you support medical cannabis and hope that they will support and possibly co-sponsor the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act currently before the House of Representatives. Next, consider advertising vacancies at dispensaries, ASA chapter meetings, patient listservs or chat rooms, or other place where patients can be found. Finally, while negotiating the terms of the lease, be clear about your expectations as a landlord, but take into account the unique needs of patients and ask questions about anything you are unsure of.

Feel free to contact ASA’s legal hotline (legalsupport@safeaccessnow.org or 510-251-1856) for more information, and thank you on behalf of patients across the state!

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