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Recreational Marijuana Use in Ohio Community Associations: A Cause for Concern?

On November 7, Ohio voters will decide whether Ohio laws will permit the use of marijuana for recreational adult use.  This includes not only the consumption of recreational marijuana, but also the ability to grow a certain number of marijuana plants at one’s home.  As the voting date approaches, a number of board members and others in the community association industry have asked how the new law might impact community associations.  This article provides a snapshot of the various issues that may arise in conjunction with adult recreational marijuana use in associations.

Under Ohio’s medical marijuana laws, a person who has a qualified medical condition can purchase and use marijuana to treat their ailment.  But, the use of medical marijuana does not include the right to smoke marijuana.

If voters approve of Issue No. 2, the use of recreational marijuana will include the ability to smoke marijuana. In associations where units are attached to one another, whether up and down or side-by-side, the infiltration of marijuana smoke from one home to another is likely. The distinct odor and potential health risks associated with marijuana smoke can cause discomfort and health issues for neighboring residents.

Recreational marijuana use can also lead to nuisance complaints from residents who are sensitive to the odor or disruptive behavior associated with its consumption.

Widespread marijuana use within a given association could negatively affect property values. Prospective buyers may be deterred by the perception of a “stoner” culture within the community.

If a resident is smoking marijuana in their home and causes a fire that damages the home, insurance might not cover the loss. This differs from a fire caused by a cigarette as cigarettes are legal under Federal and State law.  By contrast, the passage of Issue 2 will only make the smoking of marijuana legal under Ohio law, but it will still be illegal under Federal law. Some insurance policies do not cover damages to property caused by illegal acts.

The proposed law will allow adults over the age of 21 to grow up to six plants at their home. If two more adults live in the residence, a maximum of 12 plants can be grown. Marijuana cultivation can lead to property damage. Grow lights, excess humidity, and water damage from indoor marijuana plants can affect shared structures, increase utility usage, and lead to costly repairs.

The proposed law also permits the growing of plants outside the home if contained within secure structures.  The structures and plants as well might not be consistent with a community’s architectural rules.

The potential new law explicitly states that landlords may prohibit tenants from smoking or growing marijuana in apartments. There is no similar exception in the law for associations. But, while the law allows for the use and growing of marijuana, it does not give individuals a right to use or grow marijuana.  That is an important distinction as if a given community so decides, associations can still regulate and even prohibit the smoking or growing of marijuana, though it may require an amendment to the governing documents to do so.

As the above indicates, the legalization of recreational marijuana may present some challenges for your association. If Issue 2 passes, boards will need to establish clear policies and regulations that balance the rights and preferences of residents while ensuring the safety, comfort, and property values of the community as a whole. Regular communication, legal consultation, and a willingness to adapt to changing legal and social norms are key to managing these challenges effectively. If Issue 2 passes, look for more information from us to help your community on how to effectively manage marijuana-related issues.

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