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In D.C., Rent is High, but Medical Marijuana Tenants May Not Be

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Under District law, adults (21+) are permitted to possess and consume marijuana and grow a limited number of marijuana plants, in their principal residence. Similarly, the District’s medical marijuana laws are very clear that patient consumption of medical marijuana must be limited to their residence. Whether you’re treating a medical condition or enjoying a joint off the clock, public consumption of marijuana in any form in the District is strictly prohibited. So, if you are a renter, what options do you have if your landlord prohibits marijuana possession and/or consumption in its building? Legally speaking, your options are limited.

District law allows a landlord to adopt restrictive policies with respect to consumption, cultivation and possession of marijuana on its properties. And, there are no legal protections for renters who are medical marijuana patients. This means that landlords have unilateral discretion to prohibit a patient from treating their medical condition with medical marijuana in their home, as the law requires.

As a result of there being no safe harbor for medical marijuana patients, landlords across the District have implemented strict policies prohibiting all adults from possessing and consuming marijuana in their buildings – whether such marijuana is used medicinally or recreationally. This leaves D.C. renters who are also patients in a vulnerable position, with few legal places to medicate. Patients are permitted to use medical marijuana at a friend’s residence, provided that the friend’s landlord allows marijuana use and consumption on the property. Another potential remedy is a bill before the D.C. Council which would establish a so-called “safe use facilities” connected to medical marijuana dispensaries, however, this bill is more or less stalled.

Until a bill is passed, patients in restrictive housing units will have to either consume their medicine on the sly or leave the safety of their home each time they need to consume their medication. It’s hard to fathom that the Council intended for landlords to have so much influence on who can practically and fully participate in D.C.’s medical marijuana program.

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