Rental tenants consume cannabis at their own risk – even as a patient

Rental tenants consume cannabis at their own risk – even as a patient


Missouri patients may wonder what kind of protections and policies are in place for cardholders to lease an apartment or house. The short answer? None, really. 

Federal Illegality of Cannabis Creates a Gray Area 

The federal illegality of cannabis rears its ugly head once again. Because cannabis is illegal on a federal level, landlords can refuse to rent to anyone who 1) smokes indoors and 2) intends to violate federal law on their property. This does not necessarily mean that every single landlord you encounter will take issue with your smoking or consuming cannabis, it just means that it is more of an “at-your-own-risk” situation. Attorney Chris McHugh of Joseph, Hollander, and Craft Law Firm said he wouldn’t advise medical marijuana cardholders to disclose their patient status before signing a lease. 

Your patient status is not public record,” he said. “It’s as confidential as you want it to be. Would you feel the need to tell your landlord that you are a cancer patient? Or have back trouble? Many leases contain prohibitions on smoking and illegal activity. If you consume marijuana by smoking, that technically falls into both of those categories (at least under federal law). So you would not want to enter into a lease that you intend to violate. Otherwise, I don’t believe your patient status is relevant.”

Can a landlord refuse to rent to you simply because you are a patient? 

That’s a tough one,” said McHugh. “On one hand, as indicated above, landlords can refuse to rent to anyone who smokes indoors or intends on violating federal law on property. And medical marijuana patient is not in itself a protected class for discrimination purposes. On the other hand, just because you are a patient doesn’t mean you intend on smoking marijuana at all, or in fact consuming marijuana by any method in your apartment. And for those who have a medical condition that results in some type of disability, federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination in housing against someone who is disabled. I guess my answer is that the law is still developing in this area, and I generally try to avoid being a test case.”


Home cultivation and renting a property

McHugh strongly advises patients to not just begin growing cannabis in their apartment and hope nobody notices. He emphasized the importance of discussing the option with your landlord and being sure you meet all of the criteria. McHugh posed these questions for patients to consider: “Do you have the proper license from the state? How are you going to meet the Dept. of Health’s security requirements? How many plants do you want? How much space do you have for ever-bigger plants? (They don’t call it a GROW for nothing.) What is your budget? How are you going to mitigate the smell? What are your roommates going to think?” McHugh noted that all of these hurdles get considerably more challenging when the medical patient does not own their home. 

He compared growing cannabis in a rental property to adopting a puppy, in the sense that a lot of consideration and planning needs to go into it. “Responsible adults don’t go out and adopt a puppy without a lot of planning,” he said. “No matter how excited they are. The same goes for home grows.”

No Resources in Place for Housing Cannabis Patients

McHugh said “its a problem” in reference to patients not having housing resources to accommodate their medical needs. “The Missouri Constitution clearly provides no protections for consuming cannabis in “public.” And the Dept. of Health has defined that term to mean any public or private space or business that is open to the public,” McHugh told Greenway. “So patients really have no option but to consume at a residence. I’m a big proponent of regulated cannabis lounges or clubs because I believe it is better to provide a safe and comfortable place for patients to go if they cannot consume at home due to the objections of a landlord or roommate or some other obstacle, rather than force them to break the rules. I also don’t think people should be made to feel like they are doing something wrong by consuming cannabis. But right now, that is the situation.”