When the ballot initiative known as Colorado Amendment 64 was passed in November, 2012 legalizing the purchase, possession, and use of recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21, it was clear that there were many questions to resolve regarding the enforcement of the law. The commercial sale of cannabis product to the general public began on January 1, 2014, and landlords in particular have wondered about their legal obligations regarding this new law.
Medical vs. Recreational Use
For a landlord the issue of medical versus recreational marijuana use by tenants is paramount. As with other laws, landlords in Colorado have no obligation to enforce the legal limits of recreational marijuana use by their tenants, but they can certainly enforce a “no smoking” policy in their rental property. No smoking means no smoking, whether it is a marijuana cigarette or a tobacco product.
Similarly, medical marijuana that is administered in a manner other than smoking is something that cannot be prohibited by the landlord. Most lease agreements, and LeaseRunner’s Colorado Residential Lease, will specifically restrict the tenant from using illegal drugs in the rental property (and engaging in other illegal activity on the property) and complying with all laws regarding the use of legal drugs. This would include providing documentation from a medical professional about the need for medical marijuana. However, it is unclear if a landlord in Colorado must allow a tenant who requires medical marijuana to be administered by inhaling to smoke in his rental property.
The Role Of Inspections
For adults 21 or older, up to three immature and three mature cannabis plants can be grown privately in a locked space.
It is in all landlord’s best interests to inspect their rental properties periodically. A comprehensive lease agreement will include language that gives the landlord access to the rental property for several purposes, including “to inspect the Premises and determine Tenant’s compliance with the terms of the Agreement.” When doing an inspection make sure to check for compliance with Colorado law regarding the number of cannabis plants allowed. For adults 21 or older, up to three immature and three mature cannabis plants can be grown privately in a locked space.
This compliance is critically important to the landlord because of the risk of harm to the property if an excessive amount of plants are being cultivated. Cannabis plants require constant light and require a watering system. We have heard of landlords incurring tens of thousands of dollars of damage to their property due to a tenant’s manipulation of the HVAC, electrical, and plumbing systems for purposes of cultivating cannabis plants in large quantities. If you suspect that your rental has turned into a mini “grow house”, by all means find a way to inspect the premises. And, make sure to understand the limitations of your homeowner’s insurance when it comes to potential property damage.