Since 1996, over two dozen U.S. states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing the legal use of marijuana.
In Florida, voters passed Amendment 2 in 2016 and expanded Floridians access to medical marijuana. The amendment created a list of ailments that a doctor could consider when prescribing medical marijuana as a treatment.
When it comes to medical marijuana, however, Florida law is still in its infancy and highly restrictive. Efforts are underway to allow more access and broader usage, but currently, Florida law extremely limits marijuana use. At this point, for example, Floridians who are prescribed medical marijuana can consume it only in oils, tinctures and capsules, and only for allowable medical conditions. All recreational use is still illegal.
In addition, federal law has not changed, and marijuana is still illegal. It's defined as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. However, federal law has prohibited the Justice Department from using any of its funding from Congress to prosecute medical marijuana in any state where it's legal.
This raises a question to housing providers: What must they allow in housing units regarding medical marijuana usage?
State and federal fair housing laws require housing providers to offer reasonable accommodation to individuals who are members of a protected class, and the Fair Housing Act defines a person with a disability as:
- Individuals with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- Individuals who are regarded as having such an impairment
- Individuals with a record of such impairment
This arguably includes individuals being treated with medical marijuana that's legally prescribed under Florida law. Seeing this, many housing providers are now wondering if they must allow medical marijuana usage in a Florida dwelling unit.
Like all legal questions, the devil is in the details, but due to the current restrictions under Florida law, the allowance to use medical marijuana is not that dramatic.
Housing providers are currently allowed to deny the smoking of medical marijuana since Florida law doesn't permit it. If a request is received to consume marijuana in a legally authorized way under state law, the housing provider most likely needs to grant it as a reasonable accommodation.
There were proposals before the 2017 Florida Legislature to expand this allowed use of medical marijuana, but they failed to pass. However, housing providers should continue to monitor the status of the laws in Florida. They may continue to evolve.