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State Senate says landlords can prohibit tenants from using medical marijuana

flickr user bobdoran

The state Senate has passed a bill that would allow landlords to ban tenants from smoking or growing medical marijuana in their rental units. Senate Bill 72 passed on a 34-3 vote with bipartisan support.

The legislation required a three-quarters majority vote because it would change Michigan’s voter-approved Medical Marijuana Act.

“If you grow, you do a lot of damage,” bill sponsor Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Blanc, told reporters after Tuesday’s vote, “water damage, in one case a light tipped over and started a fire, earth all over the floor, mold.”

Recent court decisions have effectively banned any forms of medical marijuana ingestion other than smoking. That means state-licensed patients living in units where smoking is banned would have no other way to use medical marijuana where they reside.

“In your own home should be the place that you can take your medicine,” said state Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, who voted against the bill.

“All we did was vote to say that medical marijuana patients that have a legal card and a prescription can’t take their medicine at home. And it’s wrong.”

There is legislation in the state House and Senate that would allow non-smokable forms of medical marijuana, which would also require a three-quarters majority in the state House and Senate to pass.

Warren says it would be a “different debate” if that legislation moved alongside Jones’ bill in the Legislature. Jones says he is open to allowing so-called “medibles,” as long as lawmakers work with law enforcement groups to find language all parties can agree on.

Attorneys who work on medical marijuana cases are split on whether landlords can already ban medical marijuana in lease agreements under current law without opening themselves to a legal challenge.

Some say that would rise to the level of housing discrimination. For example, attorney Michael Komorn says someone who has a disability and treats it with marijuana may be able to challenge such a provision in a lease agreement. But he and others say the vast majority of patients and caregivers simply move on when rental agreements contain medical marijuana bans, meaning legal challenges citing the Medical Marijuana Act are rare or nonexistent.

Jones points a 2011 opinion from state Attorney General Bill Schuette, which says landlords can ban the use of medical marijuana in rental units without violating Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act. But Jones says the law is still “very confusing,” and that many police and judges are still not clear on how to interpret it. He says he introduced his bill to provide that clarity.

The bill now goes to the state House, where it will again need a three-quarters majority to pass.

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