Marijuana use is still illegal under federal law. However, recent changes to Massachusetts state law allow people who have certain debilitating conditions to grow and/or use marijuana for medical reasons. This new development presents a unique challenge for condominium boards, since some residents may now wish to grow, store and utilize marijuana inside of their units. We would like to provide you a few things to consider when deciding to allow marijuana in your managed condos.
Allowing unit owners to grow or smoke marijuana inside the building can cause multiple problems for the condo board. Most obviously, smoking inside the building is a fire hazard. If unit owners leave marijuana cigarettes lying around or use them near flammable substances, a fire may result and cause damage, injury or even death. Likewise, marijuana use in the building exposes other residents to second hand smoke, which may compromise their enjoyment of their homes and make them uncomfortable. Furthermore, if any children live in the building, their parents may not want them exposed to marijuana use. Any residents who feel that their rights have been violated may file lawsuits against the condo board, which can be expensive, stressful and time consuming for the association.
Marijuana use in a condominium complex may cause damage to the walls and ventilation systems, and any fire caused by marijuana smoking can cause significant damage to the building’s structure. Unfortunately, many insurance policies specify that smoke damage, caused by standard cigarettes or marijuana won’t be covered. Thus, condo boards that allow marijuana use in the building may find themselves without an insurance payoff in the event of damage.
Unfortunately, the situation becomes even more complicated when the rights of disabled residents come into play. Residents with debilitating medical conditions who have a prescription for marijuana may feel that their rights are being violated if they can’t grow and use marijuana in their own homes.
Even though Massachusetts state law has approved marijuana for medical use, federal law has not. Furthermore, Massachusetts state law specifies that organizations, such as condo boards, are not required to allow smoking inside of their facilities. In the end, it is up to the condo board to decide whether or not to permit residents to use or grow this substance inside their homes.
The issue of marijuana use in condos is extremely complicated. At the time of publication, no rules are set in stone for boards to follow. To determine the best course of action, condo boards must consider what is best for the community. If the condo board doesn’t want to deal with residents using marijuana in the building, one option is to ban smoking altogether. In most cases, it’s best to ban both regular cigarettes and marijuana in order to prevent claims of discrimination.
However, even if the board decides to ban smoking, it should still be prepared to consider each situation on a case-by-case basis. Boards must be flexible when dealing with residents who have serious medical conditions, and accommodations may be necessary in some situations. Above all, condo boards must be willing to communicate with residents about the community’s governing documents, policies, smoking bans and possible accommodations for residents who have valid prescriptions for medical marijuana.