When a tenant pays their rent in cash, doesn’t mind that the property has outdated amenities, and seems to live a lavish lifestyle despite being unemployed, you might think that you’ve found a great tenant. Surely, a tenant that continues to pay rent in full and doesn’t complain about anything is trustworthy, right?
Well, not quite. When all of the signs above are present, you may be dealing with a tenant with a peculiar pastime: growing marijuana.
Is medical marijuana legal in Florida?
Marijuana is legal in Florida but only for medical purposes. In 2014, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act was passed in the state of Florida to allow patients with epilepsy or cancer to use low-THC cannabis. For cannabis to be considered “low-THC”, it must contain 0.8% THC (at most) and 10% CBD (at least).
Marijuana for recreational use remains illegal in Florida. The possession of as little as twenty grams of marijuana is considered a felony and can be penalized through imprisonment and a fine of one thousand US dollars.
It is illegal for any individual, including patients and caregivers, to cultivate marijuana. Marijuana must be purchased at an approved MMTC (Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers) using the patient’s medical marijuana card (MMJ card). Patients and caregivers are allowed to possess a 70-day supply of medical marijuana at a time, but it can never be more than that.
What conditions must the patient have to use and receive marijuana?
To use and receive medical marijuana, a patient must have been diagnosed by a licensed physician with at least one of the following medical conditions:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Parkinson’s disease
The list also includes other terminal conditions similar to the ones listed above. Patients who are suffering from nonmalignant pain may also qualify for medical marijuana use in Florida.
Can tenants grow marijuana on their property?
The straightforward answer is no. Cultivating or growing marijuana plants, operating a “grow house”, and other similar activities are illegal in the state of Florida. Anyone who is caught cultivating, possessing, and using marijuana, except for medical purposes, will face severe penalties.
Cultivation of marijuana is classified as a third-degree felony, which means that anyone convicted of the crime may be sentenced to five years of imprisonment, as well as a fine of as much as $5,000. However, in some cases, cultivation may be considered a second-degree felony. In this case, the jail sentence could be as long as fifteen years. The crime can even be classified as a first-degree felony if the offender cultivated marijuana in his/her property while in the presence of minors.
Can landlords stop their tenants from growing marijuana?
Since growing one’s own cannabis is illegal in Florida, landlords have the right to prohibit their tenants from cultivating marijuana plants within the rental property. The best course of action would be to explicitly include this in the lease agreement, but even without doing so, landlords may still enforce their authority by using federal and state anti-drug laws against the tenant.
How can landlords prevent tenants from cultivating marijuana on the property?
“Grow ops” or grow operations within residential properties are becoming increasingly rampant. In 2020, detectives from Florida made the largest marijuana grow-op bust in the history of Lake County. They seized approximately 2.3 million dollars worth of marijuana that was being grown within one man’s residence.
When a tenant runs their marijuana business within a rental property, the landlord may face criminal prosecution. This is why it is extremely important to ensure that all prospective renters undergo a strict tenant screening process.
Aside from the risk of prosecution, growing marijuana may also result in damage to the home. Because marijuana plants require plenty of water, the home is at greater risk of mold and bacteria growth. Any Florida property manager will tell you that mold growth should be dealt with immediately, as it can lead to several problems including health issues and structural damage. What’s more, is that toxic fumes that are vented to the outside may affect neighboring homes.
To ensure that none of these situations happen, here is what you, as a landlord, can do today:
- Screen all tenants thoroughly. The rental application form will most likely not contain all of the information that you need. To ensure that the tenants you choose are the most qualified, consider calling their former landlords and checking for any criminal history.
- Make sure that they’re giving you proper information. No one wants to deal with a sketchy tenant. Make sure that your tenant’s information is accurate. If possible, conduct a background check to rule out the possibility that they’re pretending to be someone else. Most people who run grow-ops tend to use aliases to protect their true identities.
- Conduct regular inspections. Let the tenant know that you will be conducting frequent inspections of the property — both indoors and outdoors. If they know that you will be coming by each month, this will encourage shady tenants to look elsewhere.
- Let them know that it is a close-knit community. If these tenants with criminal intentions are aware that their neighbors will be keeping a close eye on their activities, it might just be enough to scare them away.
Can landlords forbid tenants from smoking marijuana on the property?
Many tenants might argue that because Florida passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, landlords do not have the right to prohibit tenants from smoking medical marijuana on the rental property. However, despite the presence of the law, landlords may still stop tenants from smoking marijuana in the same way that they may prohibit tenants from smoking a regular cigarette.
Smoking marijuana on the rental property may become an annoyance to other tenants and neighbors. Since it is the landlord’s responsibility to uphold the best interests of the community as a whole, he or she may include an anti-smoking clause within the lease agreement to prevent tenants from smoking marijuana.
It is imperative that you, as a property investor, stay up-to-date on federal and state laws concerning marijuana. If you don’t, you might find yourself in a tangle with the law.
Since anti-drug laws can be complex and confusing, consult with a Florida property management company to see how certain laws apply to your situation. At Luxury Property Care, we have a team of attorneys who specialize in matters concerning tenancy. We will ensure that your rental business will never get tangled with grow-ops and other criminal activities.