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The Cloudy Future: What New Statutory Trends Concerning Marijuana Means for Associations

In a historic first, the United States House of Representatives voted on legislation this year that, if passed by the Senate, would de-schedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act was originally introduced by House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler last fall and passed the Committee by a vote of 24-10 in November. On December 4, 2020, the House passed the MORE Act—the bill passed by a vote of 228 to 164.If enacted into law, the MORE ACT would decriminalize marijuana use at the federal level, expunge federal marijuana convictions and arrests, and, most importantly for this discussion, potentially pave the way for states to enact similar legislature at the state level. Currently, 15 states and the District of Columbia have already legalized marijuana for recreational use, and 35 states have legalized medical marijuana. While North Carolina has partially decriminalized certain marijuana possession offenses, both North Carolina and South Carolina have not legalized marijuana.

Since the MORE ACT passed the House, it now moves to the Senate for a vote. The current makeup of the Senate likely means that the bill will not pass. Yet the situation in the Senate could quickly change with the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoff races.

So what does all this mean for associations in North Carolina and South Carolina. It could mean that if marijuana is decriminalized at the federal law, it might push states to enact similar measures to fully decriminalize its use. Associations should therefore be wary that this opens the door for homeowners to—legally—use marijuana within their lot/unit, a concern more particular to condominiums and townhomes. Unfortunately, the physical structure and layout of condominiums and townhomes leave them susceptible to having smoke penetrate common areas or other units/lots. With that in mind, the most glaring concern for Boards and Community Managers is what if a neighbor’s use of marijuana disrupts other neighbors’ quiet use and enjoyment of their lot/unit. For example, an owner asserts that the smell of smoke regularly emanating from a neighbor’s unit aggravates their asthma. To tackle this issue, Boards should utilize their ability to adopt reasonable rules and regulations, or propose an amendment to their Declaration.

If your community would like to find out more about amending your documents or adopting rules and regulations to ban or regulate the smoking of marijuana in units/lots, please contact our community association attorneys in one of our Charlotte, Greensboro, Triangle, or Coastal offices.

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Author: Kushal Patel
Articles have been Reprinted with permission from Black, Slaughter, Black.

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