It’s well known that Massachusetts legalized the medical use of marijuana several years ago, but what exactly the move means for landlords and condominium associations remains largely an open question. In this column, I provide a brief summary of what the Massachusetts statute does say, explores the legal ambiguity over what it doesn’t address, considers the intersection between state and federal laws relating to marijuana, surveys the concerns facing condominium associations and landlords, and ultimately suggests best practices for addressing medical marijuana in the housing context.
What does the law say?
The new Massachusetts statute governing medical marijuana went into effect January 1, 2013. Massachusetts is now one of 23 states (and D.C.) to remove criminal sanctions for the medical use of marijuana. Under the statute, patients with “debilitating medical conditions” can use marijuana, and patients as well as their caregivers can possess a 60-day supply without being subject to civil or criminal penalties. The statute defines “debilitating medical conditions” as including, but not limited to, “cancer, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, AIDs (or HIV-positive status), Hepatitis C, Parkinson’s disease, ALS or multiple sclerosis” or related debilitating conditions as determined by a qualifying physician. Also, patients with limited access to dispensaries can obtain a hardship registration from the Department of Public Health, allowing them to cultivate the 60-day supply in their home.
What is the status of these dispensaries?
The state licensing system has seen its fair share of controversy since initially awarding 20 provisional licenses back in January of 2014. Several licenses were revoked amid questions about the fairness of the process, and dispensary openings, initially expected to begin in the summer of 2014, have been delayed due to bureaucratic uncertainties and mounting costs.