On Jan. 10, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Senate Bill 72, or SB 72, protecting the rights of apartment managements and landlords to prohibit medical marijuana patients from growing cannabis plants within their rented space, potentially affecting future leasing agreements between students and leasing companies near campus.
With East Lansing chock full of rental properties, the new bill raises the question of which direction each company will take.
DTN Management a prominent renter to many students was unaware of the new legislature and declined to comment.
A spokesperson for apartment housing owned by Community Resource Management Corporation or CRMC, was not familiar with SB 72 and said they would share it with their manager.
“The owners have not made their decisions on anything that they’re going to be doing in that respect at this point in time,” CRMC attorney Andrew Sass said.
Jennifer Charette, director of operations at Gillespie Group apartments in East Lansing said several Gillespie properties near campus, like Midtown, are smoke-free, and that the effects the bill will have on their lease agreements will be considered during their annual review.
The bill states that a landlord is not required to lease residential property to any person who smokes or cultivates marijuana on the premises, if the lease includes a clause that prohibits these practices.
The bill, introduced by state Michigan Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, was approved by the Michigan Senate in March of 2015 in a 34-3 vote and approved December of 2016, by the Michigan House of Representatives 88-17. The Michigan Senate approved changes proposed by the House by it was signed into law.
If the issue arises after the lease has been signed without such a clause, the landlord would likely need to rely on an anti-drug or crime policy that could have been included in the lease.
The landlord would then need to send written notice of the lease breach, citing the appropriate clause. If the renter continues to grow plants after receiving the written notice, the landlord may attempt to evict the tenant. If no such clause exists, the landlord might have difficulty preventing renters from legally growing marijuana during the term of the lease.
Jones said he was first contacted by two homeowners who had rented out their homes while on vacation, valued at $150,000 each.
After these owners returned, they discovered their homes were destroyed by grow operations.
“There was everything from earth on the floor, to water and mold damage to the walls,” Jones said.
The homeowners told their insurance companies they were going to fight against covering the damage.
“This became quite a problem for owners of rental units,” Jones said.
Jones talked with people who rent non-smoking apartments.
“But then somebody would light-up marijuana, and of course the smoke bothered them, some people are very allergic to it,” Jones said.
Yet Jones said when police investigated, they wouldn’t know what direction to take when someone showed a medical marijuana card. Now SB 72 makes it clear that mdical marijuana patients no longer have the right to smoke or grow marijuana in a rental unit without the owner's permission.
However, SB 72 makes it legal to use marijuana-infused edible products, or medicated creams or oils.
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Michigan’s 68th District State Representative Andy Schor, D-Lansing, said SB 72 allows landlords to prohibit marijuana usage in apartments in the same way that cigarettes and other things can be prohibited.
“I had many constituents write in asking me to support this bill because they did not want to be subjected to this smoke in places where they live. With the passage of previous laws allowing for medibles (edible marijuana), we have already ensured that patients in apartments who need this medicine can have access to it,” Schor said via email.
Schor said SB 72 will now allow apartment owners and residents to choose if they want to be smoke-free or not.
Jeff Irwin's term as state representative in Michigan's 53rd District ended at the end of 2016, but during his time in office he opposed SB 72 and said he believed there was no need to place a landlord-tenant law into the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act because landlords already had the authority to write provisions into their lease that would prohibit growing or smoking.
“The Attorney General put out an opinion saying as much,” Irwin said.
Irwin also mentioned when landlords came to legislature seeking to make it easier to evict medical marijuana patients he asked them, "Why don’t you enforce it the same way you’d enforce them if a tenant was being too noisy or disruptive in some other way? But for some reason they wanted to put this into the Medical Marihuana Act and to amend the citizen-initiated statute, and that’s what I objected to."
The bill might make it harder for judges to be sympathetic to a tenant due to their status as a patient as well, Irwin said.
Yet Irwin doesn’t clearly see how this bill changes the law, because the of previous contract law which states if tenants and a landlord agreed to certain terms, landlords can enforce those terms in court. These specific stipulations are still required to be included within a lease agreement, Irwin pointed out.
Michigan’s 18th District Senator Rebekah Warren was an opponent to the SB 72. Warren said when the bill was moving through legislation, it was a reminder that in Michigan recreational marijuana use hasn’t been made legal yet.
Warren argued that if medical marijuana were substituted for any other kind of medicine, such as antibiotics or inhaler medicine for asthma, people wouldn’t stand for the bill.
“This is people’s medicine, and if you don’t own your own home and you have to rent a space or share a living situation, it just doesn’t make sense to me that you wouldn't be able to take your medicine in the place that you live," Warren said.
Warren said when the bill was moving through legislation there were proponents of it who argued that instead of smoking medical marijuana, a patient could use other routes of administration such as oils or edibles, yet these extract versions were not legal in Michigan until 2016.
“The way the legislation is written it’s pretty broadly defined, so any rental company or owner can just put it in a lease,” Warren said. “It might be somebody who signs that lease before they even know that they’re going to develop a condition or have a condition where medical marijuana might be prescribed by their doctor.”
Warren said perhaps only a handful of landlords will proactively allow access to medical marijuana, so she's concerned for people who may sign a long-term lease and later find out that their housing is inhospitable to medical marijuana treatment.
"What repercussions do they have? There’s no automatic ability to break the lease if you find out that your lease doesn’t allow medical marijuana and you need that for your health or some condition that you have," Warren said.
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