Call it the renter’s paradox. When voter-approved marijuana legalization goes into full effect next year, renters will be able to buy weed, but may not technically have a place to smoke it.
The current law prohibits open use of marijuana “in view of the general public,” but allows it inside privately owned homes. That protection doesn’t extend to rental housing – of which, Capitol Hill has plenty. Many landlords are expected to ban marijuana in and around their buildings, just like cigarettes.
It’s not a new issue, but Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes is now asking the state to address it. In a letter dated June 10, Holmes asked the state’s Liquor Control Board to consider allowing for smoking clubs to curb public marijuana use. “Renters and tourists should not be forced to use marijuana in parks or on sidewalks,” he wrote.
It’s unclear under I-502 if pot clubs are permitted.
Liquor Control Board spokesperson Brian Smith said the board would likely not take up the issue of pot clubs. The board’s primary concern is setting up a regulatory framework for people to buy and sell marijuana, he said.
Tim Seth, president of the Washington Landlord Association, told CHS he is advising all landlords to ban marijuana inside units and on building premises because “a majority of people don’t smoke” and “smokers have a higher propensity to be default tenants.”
“We look at it like cigarettes,” Seth said. “[Landlords] can ban cigarettes anywhere on the property. It’s the same with marijuana, with the exception being medical marijuana.”
But landlords are already facing their own paradox. Seth said many landlords use leases with clauses that prohibit the “use of illegal drugs,” which no longer applies to marijuana. Landlords cannot change the terms of the lease until the lease ends, meaning tenants may be able to smoke inside until their lease is up. Edibles will likely continue to be a viable option.
If smoking marijuana is prohibited in a lease, Seth said landlords will have the right to give a notice to comply and eventually evict tenants if they continue to use marijuana inside their buildings.
Some bars and businesses in the state have already tried their hands at pot clubs without the explicit go-ahead from regulators. Tacoma’s Stonegate Pizza made headlines in March, billing itself as the nation’s first legal pot club. For $20 customers get a year-long membership to vaporize (not smoke) marijuana from an upstairs lounge inside the shop.
In addition to pot clubs, the Seattle City Attorney also asked the board to consider specifying rules on marijuana delivery — something more than a few Capitol Hill entrepreneurs will be paying close attention to.