Updated on October 4, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
One of the pressing concerns that patients have if using medical marijuana in their Florida rental will put them in hot water. If you are a resident of Florida and you rent a home or an apartment, there may be some issues to consider.
Even though medical marijuana is legalized in Florida State, it is not legalized at the federal level. Housing protection and discrimination laws are provided by the Federal Government. This conflict in the governance of housing laws can result in problems for Florida renters.
Can a landlord actually evict you for using medical marijuana in your Florida rental? What if you are in compliance with all Florida State laws for medical marijuana use? Learn more about some of the complications that medical cannabis cardholders face when they rent property in Florida.
Smoking Medical Marijuana in Florida Rentals vs other Intake Methods
Intake of medical cannabis by smoking—through a vaporizing device or paper rolled methods—was recently legalized in Florida. However, if that is your preferred method as a patient, it can be grounds for a landlord to issue an eviction notice.
Public health standards have eliminated smoking in multi-family dwellings, such as apartments and condominiums. The intention is to protect public safety from fire hazards and preserve indoor air quality for residents. Landlords in Florida may view smoking or vaping of medical cannabis to be equal to the health and safety risks of smoking cigarettes.
There are other methods of consuming medical marijuana that does not impact air quality. These options include marijuana tinctures. They are odorless and do not create any residuals after consumption. There is also the option of taking medical marijuana in the caplet form as a daily supplement.
Appealing an Eviction Notice Under the ‘Fair Housing Act’ in Florida
In the United States, the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to harass a renter. It is also illegal to deny them access to safe housing on the grounds of discrimination. The Fair Housing Act protects short and long-term residential renters on the grounds of race, sex, disability, color, religion, national origin, or familial status.
Worried about the consequences of filing a complaint or appeal under the Fair Housing Act in Florida? The laws also make it illegal for the landlord to threaten, intimidate, or interfere with the complaint process. Landlords can also be fined if they have retaliated against an individual who has filed a fair housing complaint.
If you are a patient, and you have been threatened with eviction due to the use of medical marijuana in your Florida rental, there are legal steps you can take. This is especially true if you have a diagnosed disability, which further protects you under the Fair Housing Act.
The problem, however, is that medical marijuana is legalized at the state level, but not at the federal level. The Fair Housing Act is a Federal law, and in court, the landlord could successfully argue that fact. The court may have compassion for individuals with life-threatening or terminal health conditions.
The National Apartment Association Does Not Support Medical Marijuana Protections for Tenants
The National Apartment Association monitors the legal requirements for commercial property owners and tenant oversight. They have made several statements that support landlords who move to evict tenants from residential properties when medical marijuana is involved.
There are a number of key points that landlords defend in court. Some of the lease contract terms can be violated in the eyes of the property owner. Medical marijuana is likened to the same fire hazard and air quality risks as cigarette smoking. There is also the concern of property damage from residue on walls and ceilings.
Residential property owners and large multifamily buildings may have a generalized policy against smoking. This is often the case, as many tenants prefer a smoke-free environment. It also helps to protect the property against damage and improves safety if there are fewer fire hazards.
Another concern that landlords have is tenants could be growing marijuana plants inside the residential unit. In Florida, owning marijuana plants is illegal, even for MMJ cardholders. The production and distribution of cannabis are highly regulated in the state. Only licensed dispensaries are currently able to grow cannabis for patients. These dispensaries must adhere to the state’s quality standards and THC limits for patient products.
Medical cannabis is almost always grown inside for climate control, to deter theft, and to prevent minors from accessing the plant(s). Other states have made it legal for medical marijuana patients to propagate 1-2 plants for personal use, within strict guidelines. In those states, the fire hazard threat is real, as indoor hydroponics can present a safety risk.
What are Some Alternative Living Options for Tenants Licensed for Medical Marijuana in Florida?
Apartments, condominiums, and other multiple-family residences have strict policies about smoking in general. They are unlikely to make accommodations to those policies, even when a tenant has a diagnosed chronic health condition.
Many medical marijuana patients migrate to renting a home or a separate residence, such as a prefab home or trailer. The rules for medical marijuana are then subject to the landlord and property owner. As the dwelling is separate from other residences, there could be more leniency for medical marijuana patients.
In a rental home with more privacy, landlords can take a more flexible approach. They may still ask that you do not smoke within the house but may consent to you smoking medical marijuana on the property outdoors.
Some residents also choose to smoke or intake medical marijuana on private property owned by a family member or friend. When a residential home is owned, it is at the discretion of the homeowner and not subject to any restrictions. It may not be ideal to have to go over to the home of a family member, but it may be easier than dealing with a landlord dispute over medical cannabis.
As long as we are forced to deal with the legal disparities between federal and state laws concerning medical marijuana, patients may have to cope with housing issues. Fortunately, some landlords in Florida are compassionate and supportive of responsible use.