It’s High Time to Talk Medicinal Marijuana

When I was 13, I went to my very first concert. My mom and uncle took me to see my favorite band, Third Eye Blind, at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland.

Two minutes into the show, Mom turned to me and said, “Do you smell that, Lauren? That’s pot. Don’t breathe it in!”

Confused as to how I would enjoy the rest of the concert while holding my breath, I nodded, made a mental note and continued singing “Semi-Charmed Life”—a song, I later realized, was about drug use. 

Needless to say, I’ve been trying to “hold my breath” around pot ever since; it just seems gross. Call me Marcia Brady.

But medical marijuana has been legal in California—and several other states—for several years. And according to Nadeen Green, Senior Counsel, For Rent Media Solutions, if you own or manage communities in the Golden State, you need to have a policy regarding residents’ use of the substance on your property. (By the way, Green has been told that a California case precludes employees from using medical marijuana while on the job.)

Many California communities are now smoke-free, either as a result of owner preference or local laws. Smoking is smoking—cigarettes, pipes, cigars, hookahs, roaches. Green says you can forbid it all, but if, because of a disability, someone asks to smoke their medical marijuana as a reasonable accommodation, you will need to consider that request.

And unless such marijuana use becomes a nuisance (in the legal and lease sense—but be careful here in coming to that conclusion), or if it conflicts with someone else’s disability, Green says you most likely must allow the resident this accommodation.

This is a complicated topic, Green admits. Does smoking marijuana leave residue in an apartment? If so, is such residue “normal wear and tear” related to a disability? Can the owner deny the accommodation because of federal law (those Feds still maintain that the use of marijuana for any purpose is illegal)? Can the resident accomplish the same outcome—relief from pain and nausea, not to get high—through other means, such as another form of medication or another way to take in the marijuana (brownies, anyone?).

It seems to be that technically, in California, forbidding a disabled resident from using medical marijuana is a violation of state law and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing would have to pursue the case if denial of a disability accommodation was claimed by a resident, Green concludes.

So before you say no to medical marijuana, consider reaching out to your own counsel (because of course this post is not legal advice from Green or myself) to help you take the right road on this.

In some cases, it may be the high road.

For more, check out “It’s High Time to Talk Medical Marijuana” in the July issue of units Magazine, which mailed July 11.