Conflicts Rise for Homeowners Associations Over Marijuana Legalization

potMarijuana prohibition is drawing back rapidly, with 23 states declaring some form of legalization, but that doesn’t mean your homeowners association feels the same way. Even if your marijuana is medical, your HOA may not be down with you smoking outside.

Conflicts among neighbors are on the rise in managed communities where pot has been legalized to some degree. In fact, marijuana use is right up there with poor exterior decorating choices and neglected lawns.

HOAs in states where marijuana has been legalized can’t stop their residents from smoking or growing pot behind closed doors, but outside the home is fair game. Neighborhood boards are well within their rights to regulate drug use as a disturbance or a threat to children, the same way they would regulate a pool without a fence.

Special attention is being paid to common areas like playgrounds or porches, where marijuana smoke can easily waft without regulation.

According to Bryan Kuester, President of Kuester Management Group, “Regardless of the legality of the issue, the fact remains that, just like alcohol, public use affects everyone and not just the user. So this has to be kept in mind when deciding where to draw the line in an HOA community”

HOAs faced with marijuana use can suspend privileges or seek court injunctions to prevent residents from creating a nuisance. Some are pointing to the legal right to smoke cigarettes, which is still often restricted inside restaurants.

It only takes a two-thirds vote from homeowners to ban using or growing pot. An agreement like this to ban pot use and distribution entirely would preclude the legalization of marijuana, but would leave the board open to legal loopholes concerning medical marijuana.

Homeowners associations are still subject to federal and state fair housing laws, and are generally unable to prevent someone who is ill or disabled from using a prescription, even if it’s medical marijuana. Many residents have considered all-out bans too extreme anyway.

This isn’t entirely a new issue. Several associations that tried to ban smoking cigarettes in their communities face resistance and have difficulty enforcing the ban. It’s possible that banning marijuana in a similar way may not be worth the disputes that could arise from such an action.

As marijuana regulations continue to fall around the country, homeowners associations everywhere might be faced with difficult decisions about pot use and distribution. How they choose to adapt is up to their boards and their residents.