Marijuana: A Growing Real Estate Issue

by Chip Bell

It’s Legal, And It’s Not

“While the legalization of marijuana has more obvious implications for residential and commercial property managers who have to deal with a variety of landlord-tenant issues, it’s also creating challenges for community and condominium associations and federally assisted rental housing,” said Megan Booth, senior policy analyst for the National Association of Realtors.

One of the major barriers industry professionals are facing in the budding business of marijuana-related real estate is the fact that despite changes to state legislation, marijuana remains a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act at the federal level.

Derek Peterson, the founder and CEO of Terra Tech, a publically traded urban agriculture company focused on local farming and medical cannabis, said that it’s “impossible to run a business that touches the cannabis plant and be legal under federal law.”

He added: “The best we can do is manage that risk.”

According to a whitepaper recently published on the subject by the Institute of Real Estate Management, while distribution of marijuana remains a federal offense, the Department of Justice has posted a series of notices in recent years, re-assuring business owners involved in legitimate marijuana growth and distribution operations that it is “unlikely to use federal resources to prosecute activities that are legal under the state law in which the activity is taking place; but the notices reinforce the fact that marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, and clearly retain their right to prosecute illegal activity.”

Lawmakers and industry influencers have repeatedly lobbied the FDA to change the status of marijuana so that it can be legally prescribed for doctors, and urged the White House to issue licenses allowing “businesses, dispensaries and growers” immunity from federal prosecution, but so far such requests have gone unanswered.

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