Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Users Left in a Haze Without Housing Protection
Medical marijuana has been legal in Pennsylvania since 2016, allowing registered patients to use cannabis to help treat 23 medical conditions. As of December 2020, there are more than half a million patients and caregivers registered in the Keystone State, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The state became one of the fastest-growing medical marijuana markets during the pandemic as sales soared starting back in the spring of 2020. The accelerated market growth rate shows just how popular this new medicine is for Pennsylvanians and sheds light on the future of marijuana in the state. But will the progress of this popular plant be hindered by renting laws?
Housing Rights for Medical Marijuana Patients
While marijuana is legal for medical use, it’s still illegal federally, meaning it’s listed as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This classification has in turn created a number of challenges for Pennsylvania residents, mainly centered around housing rights for medical marijuana patients.
Medical marijuana laws are confusing, which has resulted in many renters assuming that landlords have to allow medical marijuana smoking, despite any no-smoking policies in place. Unfortunately for many renters, medical marijuana laws simply say that people who use marijuana in compliance with state law aren’t committing a crime, not that they are able to smoke in public or even within a rental property.
Fair Housing laws require landlords to accommodate people with disabilities. Depending on the disability, landlords might have to make exceptions to their rules in order to accommodate their tenant’s needs. One such example of accommodations occurs when a landlord must make an exception to a no-pets policy for a handicapped tenant who requires a guide dog. Some patients are making similar arguments regarding the use of medical marijuana: Their qualifying conditions are a disability, which requires accommodation. Landlords could make exceptions for this, but most do not and counter with the fact that patients can ingest marijuana in a multitude of ways - they’re not limited to smoking.
What Does This Mean for Patients Who Rent?
If you or your client are medical marijuana patients, there are some laws that can protect smokers’ housing rights. There are already laws to protect you from being discriminated against at work, such as being refused employment based on your medical marijuana patient status or administering drug tests for THC. However, Pennsylvania still needs to create laws to prevent landlords from discriminating against medical marijuana patients. Patients are concerned whether or not a landlord can refuse to rent to them, or worse, decide to evict them if they use their prescribed medication.
The state’s decision to legalize medical marijuana shows that the government is listening to its people (68% of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana as of November 2020), but there are ripple effects, like patient rental protections, that still need to be addressed.
How You Can Do Your Part
Topics like medical marijuana patient rental protections remind us that, as agents, we need to listen and be open to our clients’ needs. Understanding what your clients require in their future home to support their health is critical to your success as an agent and to their satisfaction with their new home.
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