This article was posted on Saturday, Dec 01, 2018

Marijuana and the Fair Housing Act are questions that often come up these days amid changing laws so this week the Grace Hill training tip takes a look at the issue. Marijuana use is on the rise across the United States. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use for medicinal or recreational purposes. This means you will likely have residents who request an accommodation to standard policies that prohibit drug use on your property. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency classifies marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. If a resident is using marijuana for a medical condition, that condition may qualify as a disability that could entitle them to an accommodation of some kind. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), it is illegal to refuse to make a reasonable accommodation in rules, policies or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. An accommodation is reasonable under the FHA if it does not cause undue hardship, fiscal or administrative burdens on the property management company, or does not undermine the basic purpose that the policy seeks to achieve.

 Is Marijuana a Reasonable Accommodation?

If a resident has a disability and indicates that using marijuana in their home is related to that disability, they could request a “reasonable accommodation” under the FHA. Note that physicians in the United States are not actually permitted to prescribe marijuana, although they can recommend its use for their patients to treat various medical conditions. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, which recognizes no medical use. Ultimately, an accommodation that allows conduct in violation of a federal law likely constitutes an “undue administrative burden.” That means that using marijuana in multifamily housing would likely not be a reasonable accommodation a housing provider has to allow, even if it is for medical purposes. The bottom line is that the current state of the law does not require the approval of medical marijuana as a reasonable accommodation for a disability. Nevertheless, this is an evolving area of the law, and specific requests for accommodations related to marijuana use should be discussed with your attorney.

 California is Different When it Comes to Marijuana

As of October 1, 2018, California made history again by becoming the first to implement a statewide process to automatically review and potentially reduce or dismiss sentences and records for low-level marijuana offenses, according to The crux of the new legislation is the idea that people should not be forced to bear long-term professional and financial consequences for crimes that are no longer illegal. California legalized marijuana use for adults and small amounts of possession with Proposition 64, which voters approved in 2016. Marijuana is legal for recreational use in nine states plus the District of Columbia. None of them automatically reconsider marijuana records statewide, and some don’t even allow retroactive record relief.

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Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill.  Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leaders and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.

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