When my husband accepted an internship in Colorado a few months ago, it was a bit of a scramble to secure summer housing. As if finding a decent place with a three month lease isn’t hard enough, the apartment communities allowing that short of a lease were all boasting this new “feature”.
I was a little taken back by the phrase “420 Friendly” that seemed to be headlining a good majority of the postings. Amendment 64 is no secret; it has been widely publicized and debated for quite some time, however, I didn’t expect it to be displayed as a bright, flashing neon sign for apartment communities. It made me wonder what went through the minds of property management executives, and how much control they had to accept or deny recreational use on site. Fortunately, the legal impact for the multifamily industry is fairly minimal.
There are two parts to Amendment 64; the first obviously being the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, and the second the creation of a regulated marijuana industry. The amendment regulates marijuana much like alcohol. A person must be 21 to purchase it, and driving under the influence is of course illegal. The most surprising aspect is that it also legalizes the growing of marijuana. A person must have no more than six plants with only half being mature, and it must be grown in an enclosed, locked space.
Property managers will mainly be affected by the use and possession element of Amendment 64. Do property managers have the right to prohibit marijuana on their property? The answer is yes. Regardless of the Colorado law, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. The amendment specifically states that nothing shall prohibit any person who owns or controls a property from prohibiting or otherwise regulating the possession, consumption, use, or growing of marijuana on that property.
I found myself wondering why any property would consider allowing use in their community. I saw it as just asking for disaster. Impaired residents and their “guests” are something that I certainly wouldn’t be excited to deal with, not to mention problems with other residents who don’t appreciate the finer points of cannabis intoxication. As I looked more deeply into the issue, I realized exactly why.
Nearly 55% of Colorado residents voted to legalize marijuana, including the establishment of retail stores. If this actually happens, marijuana will more than likely become widely accepted across the state. Marijuana users could potentially make up a significant percentage of the rental population, leaving property management companies with the decision of whether or not they want to write off renting to all those potential residents. Therefore, it may not necessarily be a question of the morality of legalized recreational use and production of marijuana, as much as it is a question of economics: What properties want to, potentially, lose 55% of prospective renters by disallowing the use of a recreational substance that the state has approved? What are the economic implications of such a blanket decision?
Regardless of one’s personal stance on legalization, it is imperative that property owners look at this decision from an economic and realistic standpoint. They do, of course, always have the ability to set the standards of residence and may, at their discretion, choose not to rent to smokers, drinkers or party lovers of any sort. But for those who choose to go the route of a giant, funkified “420 Friendly” banner, be prepared for the wave of exciting new characters you may attract.