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Nationwide Marijuana Election Update

Marijuana Update

Voters in three states decided to legalize marijuana, while citizens in one other location rejected a legalization ballot measure. This affects apartment operators.

North Dakota, Michigan, Utah and Missouri had the option to join more than 30 others in legalizing marijuana either for recreational or medicinal purposes on the Nov. 6 ballot. Voters in Michigan, Utah and Missouri decided to legalize marijuana in one form or another, while the measure in the North Dakota failed with approximately 40 percent in favor and 60 percent opposed. North Dakota’s ballot measure would have legalized recreational marijuana and required automatic expungement of marijuana-related convictions.


In Michigan, voters approved Proposal 18-1, with 57 percent in favor and 43 percent opposed. The proposal legalizes marijuana for recreational use. While the final regulations are forthcoming, the ballot measure states that a lease agreement can still prohibit home cultivation, distribution, processing, sale, display of marijuana and marijuana accessories and consumption by smoking only. This prohibition would not apply to residents who choose to consume marijuana in other forms, such as vaporization.

Alice Ehn, Executive Officer at the Washtenaw Area Apartment Association (WAAA) in the state, has worked with the Property Management Association of Michigan (PMAM) for years, fighting for owners’ rights on this contentious issue. Ehn shares, 

It is [WAAA’s] belief that the language in the PMAM-sponsored legislation of 2016, preventing the smoking and growing of marijuana in rental units if so-stated in the lease, is still valid. This language is contingent that the lease does not stipulate “medical marijuana” but addresses marijuana in general. The new recreational marijuana law should not change a rental housing provider’s rights if the lease is properly-worded. We will however watch the creation and interpretation of new legislation around this matter closely to ensure owners’ rights are preserved.


In Utah, medical marijuana passed 53 percent to 47 percent in November. Utah lawmakers, however, voted in a special legislative session on Dec. 3 to pass a 187-page medical marijuana bill that replaced the original 28-page ballot initiative, Proposition 2. It was signed into law on the same day.

There were three revisions of the contentious legislation, with the latest version removing an onerous provision from the original ballot measure, which prohibited owners from refusing to lease to a medical marijuana cardholder. The only exception would have been if doing so would cause the owner to lose a monetary or licensing benefit under federal law.  


Missouri voted in favor of Amendment 2, by a 66 percent to 34 percent tally. The amendment legalized marijuana for medical use. The ballot measure states that registered patients and caregivers are allowed to cultivate up to six marijuana plants at home. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is tasked with implementing the provisions and plans to release regulations in the upcoming months. NAA will work with its affiliates in the state to keep members informed as the process moves forward. 

While states continue to legalize marijuana, either through ballot measures or legislation and federal officials relax enforcement, it is vital for NAA affiliates to remember that marijuana remains classified as an illegal substance federally, as they work to provide education to members that are operationalizing this issue in terms of resident and employee use.

The NAA network also should consider the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2014 memo which specifies that owners of federally funded properties must “deny admission to any household with a member who the owner determines is, at the time of application for admission, illegally using a controlled substance as that term is defined by the CSA” as required by the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998.

Marijuana remains a growing issue for NAA as additional states weigh the costs and benefits of legalization. To better assist local and state apartment associations in the NAA network, NAA is in the process of creating additional resources for affiliate staff to reference should this issue catch fire in your area. We will notify affiliates as these resources become available.

If you become aware of any breaking policy action to regulate marijuana in your area have questions, please contact NAA’s marijuana policy expert, Jodie Applewhite, Manager, Public Policy at NAA.