What Virginia’s New Marijuana Law Means for Renters
RICHMOND, Virginia – New marijuana laws have been in place for weeks now in Virginia, but people are still adapting to the changes. This includes housing managers who try to manage conflicts between tenants and their neighbors.
As of July 1, Virginians 21 and older are allowed to legally own up to one ounce of cannabis and grow four plants inside their homes. However, the law does not prohibit landowners from maintaining their own policies regarding marijuana.
On Sunday afternoon, Jami Ramos and James Sayen escaped the hustle and bustle of their West Broad Street apartment for a peaceful game of Pokémon Go at Monroe Park.
“Life in the city is busy. I’m not really used to that,” Ramos said. “I grew up in the suburbs, so I’m not used to all the sirens and noise in general.”
One thing she and Sayen have gotten used to is the smell of marijuana in their apartment building. Although the Commonwealth recently decided to legalize drugs, this is nothing new to them.
“We kind of always felt it. People do it in the garage all the time,” they said. “Sometimes we felt it in the hallway. I don’t think anything has changed for us except I guess it’s legal now so people are going to be more open about it.”
Ramos and Sayen said they didn’t mind because the smell didn’t linger in their unit. But they feel that many of their neighbors may not realize that the lease forbids smoking.
“No tobacco, no nothing. No smoking of any kind and it still happens,” they joked.
Similar smoking bans are common in multi-family residential buildings.
“There are currently many properties that have rental agreements where residents agree not to smoke, and it’s a smoke-free community,” said Patrick McCloud, CEO of the Virginia Apartment Management Association.
He explained that the rules are in place because landlords must not only protect the rights of tenants, but the living community as a whole.
McCloud said just because the laws have changed doesn’t mean all tenants can immediately start using or growing cannabis without checking their lease or talking to their property manager.
“Much of this will show up in the realm of other complaints from residents and management having to deal with this issue,” McCloud said.
Another factor to consider: Under federal law, marijuana remains illegal.
“Most agreements still contain clauses that any violation of federal law could be a means of deportation,” said Kelly Cournoyer, associate attorney at Toscano Law Group. “Whenever there is a conflict between state law and federal law, federal law will win.”
However, she does not foresee waves of expulsions since this is such a new territory.
“I imagine some landlords can be more lenient than others, and it’s definitely an open discussion that tenants should have with their landlords,” Cournoyer said.
If tenants want to smoke in their apartment and it is currently prohibited, Cournoyer said it was reasonable to ask their landlord to change the lease. Keep in mind, however, that homeowners are not required to comply with this request, as marijuana is still federally illegal.
Toscano Law Group has launched a campaign called “Clear The Smoke” to answer frequently asked questions regarding new marijuana laws. Click here to visit their website.
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