Cannabis Housing Laws in California

California Neighborhoods Housing Laws
Photo by: trekandshoot/Shutterstock

California Neighborhoods Housing Laws
Photo by: trekandshoot/Shutterstock
Recreational marijuana will be legal in California on Jan. 1, and many people are wondering if housing laws will affect them smoking at home. Smoking marijuana will be legal on private property, including places outside on the property such as the back yard or front porch. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act also permits people 21 and older to cultivate up to 6 plants in or on their residence for personal use on their private property.

However, folks who are renting could run into issues while smoking at home, especially if they are renting in a building with multiple tenants. Under the current housing laws, landlords can ban smoking on rental properties and premises. According to a partner at the Los Angeles law firm Kaedian, landlords can ban smoking marijuana just like tobacco.

What About Renters?

Even if there is no ban on a property, complications can still arise for renters in apartment buildings. For instance, neighbors can complain about the smell, and since cannabis is still illegal under federal law, they could hassle the landlord to take action. There is usually a “no illegal drugs” stipulation in standard rental agreements, which applies to marijuana because of federal law, and the landlord could use it to try to evict a tenant who smokes weed.

Federal Housing Complications

No Marijuana Federally Illegal
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Another issue with the housing laws is for people who live in subsidized housing. Low-income housing is federally funded, and since marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, the new regulations do not permit marijuana in public housing, including for any medical marijuana consumers who may live in subsidized housing. Lawyer Eric Shevin says that the housing laws discriminate against medical marijuana cardholders in low-income housing. “This is true even under the Americans With Disabilities Act due to the current federal scheduling, which denies any and all medical use,” Shevin said of the housing laws. “The only classes of people who cannot be discriminated against are those in protected classes: race, gender, age, sexual orientation and alienage.”

Some cities will allow public places established for people to use cannabis once recreational weed becomes legal on Jan. 1, but others will ban it. Cannabis advocates argue that the public ban would prevent those living in federal housing from using cannabis anywhere. The executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Los Angeles, Bruce M. Margolin, argues that “The current status with denying on-site consumption means that they have no place to go unless they own a residence or have access to a residence, which is completely unfair,” he said.

San Francisco is one city that already allows public smoking, and medical marijuana dispensaries with public smoking areas provide medical consumers living in federal housing a safe place to consume cannabis. New regulations in cities like Los Angeles and San Diego will not yet allow for public consumption.

The bottom line is that if you own your own home or live in a 420-friendly place, enjoy your jolly holly carefree. If you’re renting and plan on taking the risk to partake in marijuana consumption, try to be discreet or think about vaping or edibles. But remember two things: your landlord could use it against you, and be careful if you choose edibles because they can be too strong for infrequent smokers.