By now, you’re probably well aware that July 1 ushered in a new era of legal cannabis in Virginia. But how will this new legal landscape affect your property management business? The answer right now is most likely “not very much.”

Let’s start with a look at what changed in the law on July 1. Virginia residents age 21 or older may now possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. They may also cultivate up to four plants per household for personal use. This cultivation must happen at the person’s primary residence, and the plants must not be visible from a public street, among other restrictions.

Finally, sharing of up to one ounce of marijuana in private is legal, though no payment or other form of financial compensation is allowed. It is still illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess marijuana, and you may not smoke it in public. Buying or selling is still prohibited, unless you are purchasing through the medical marijuana program. Possession of more than an ounce but less than a pound is subject to a $25 fine, while possession of more than a pound is still a felony. So with that in mind, we wanted to present a Q&A regarding how these laws affect rentals.

  • Q: Can I still ban residents from smoking marijuana in a rental property?
    • A: Yes. You can ban them from smoking marijuana just like you can ban them from smoking tobacco. A blanket “No Smoking” policy will cover tobacco and marijuana.
  • Q: What if the tenant says they have a medical use card? Can I still prohibit smoking on the property without violating fair housing?
    • A: Potentially. Fair housing requires that you engage in an interactive process with the tenant to determine if there is an alternative accommodation that would effectively address the disability-related need of the requester. This could include establishing designated smoking areas or the tenant using non-smoking preparations like capsules, sprays, tinctures, oils, creams, gels, lozenges, patches, troches, suppositories, lollipops, and inhalation products like vaporizers.
  • Q: Can the landlord prohibit the growing of marijuana on the property?
    • A: Potentially. If your owner is concerned about a tenant growing marijuana in the ground on the property, you can insert into the lease a provision that states that nothing may be planted on the property. If the lease is ongoing, you can create a rules and regulations document (if the lease allows for it) that does the same thing. However, because this is a new and emerging area of the law, if your landlord wants to prohibit a tenant from growing inside (or in a pot outside), they should seek legal advice on the specific language to include in the lease or an addendum.
  • Q: If I determine that tenants are selling marijuana from the property, is that still grounds for termination of the lease?
    • A: Yes. The sale of marijuana is still illegal, so if you determine that the tenants are engaged in the act of selling from the property, you can start the process of termination under the terms of the lease.
  • Q: Are there any other factors I need to think about as a property manager?
    • Yes. If utilities are included in the cost of rent, rather than billed based on usage or the tenant obtaining utilities directly from the providers, you may want to consider adjusting your policies if there is a large increase in electricity or water. During routine inspections, you may want to look for additional risk hazards like overloaded outlets/power strips or water damage.

*Information as of 08/18/21