Dealing with modern stigma and discrimination of cannabis

I have lived in Arizona for most of my life, and I consider it a home that I know and understand. Cannabis has always had a negative reputation with the ideals and culture of the blue blood of Arizona, and the cities of Phoenix. The fear and misrepresentation were present here even after the passing of our medical cannabis bill. Only recently with the state seeing tax revenue from medical cannabis are those tensions starting to ease.

Recently, I’ve experienced my first encounter with cannabis discrimination in the most difficult situation possible, an eviction. Thankfully, there are laws to protect people, and in most cases, they do the job of protecting medical cannabis patients in Arizona. That said, those who rent or lease property do not have the same protections that those who own property hold by law. Property management companies have found ways around the law to evict those they deem to be drug users or addicts, to keep gentrifying neighborhoods happy and property value up. Opening a dialogue about the issue and how it affects those who should be protected will hopefully change the situation for all.

A Simple Move Turned Into a Complicated Situation

To accommodate a job, I moved to the midtown area of Downtown Phoenix. I started my lease in January 2018, with management group A, and I did not have to sign any documents concerning medical cannabis or smoking. With property group A, renovations to empty apartments were ongoing, yet I had a busted sink they never got around to fixing, and by April 2018 they were no longer my property group. On to property group B, who were cool, fixed my sink but doubled the amount of work being done to upgrade apartments. I never had any contact over my lease agreement other than a mailer that stated it was carried over, and payments are made to property group B. It was short-lived as upgrades were completed by June, and the apartments were bought by property group C in July 2018, to fill those apartments. In a similar operation, a mailer was sent out about property group C taking over and that they would contact me about any property or policy changes. Time passed with no contact, and the neighbors began to change, but my birthday was in August, so I was planning the party. It came and went, good times, no issues, and with a good amount of smoke, but soon after I was sent a notice from the new property manager.

Housing and Cannabis

Property Management Companies Aren’t Friends of MMJ

It stated that a complaint was filed with the property manager by a neighbor claiming my participation in “illegal activities” which was actually use of medical cannabis. For once in my life, I wish someone had just called the cops on us for a party, we could have shown that every guest had an MMJ patient card. I’ve never missed rent or needed extensions, and all my bills were paid. This letter of intent went on to state that the eviction process would be started, and that the local authorities would be contacted concerning my illegal activities. The week of this notice my electricity was turned off, and I thought the police would show up to raid me. I immediately contacted the property group to discuss the situation and was able to explain that I was a medical cannabis patient. They had nothing to say other than they would be in contact, so I went to seek legal counsel with an attorney, and several friendly advocates in the MMJ community, all stated not to trust this property management group. The property group eased, and power was an option to turn back on, along with staying to finish my lease. The condition was an outrageous non-refundable deposit for allowing smoking and MMJ, two months’ worth of rent. My contract only had three months left, and it was widely agreed that I was powerless unless I paid the fees, it was legal extortion.

Fighting a Battle I Couldn’t Win

As I stated, as a renter I have fewer protections than someone who owns the property, and the property groups dictate their policies on the lease. My original lease with property group A had no MMJ addendum; it only stated in the lease that no illegal drugs or activity would be permitted. Property group B carried over the lease agreement to property group C, who had an option to stipulate changes to deposit policies while abiding by the lease agreement. It was not a violation that was recognized by the state to my patient rights, I fought through August and September, but I was served an eviction notice to vacate by October. In preparing for the worst, I was already moved out and had a place to live, thanks to a great friend. I told the property manager I could be out within the first few days of October. Shocked, they offered to drop the eviction if I could be out by a specific date, and I was able to comply. They filled my apartment with a young family within two weeks of my being gone.

Advice for Choosing Housing

Looking back, I was lucky they simply didn’t claim illegal by federal law as it could have been far worst, I was told, but thankfully it was just another chapter in the cannabis fight for acceptance. My best advice is to seek 420 friendly housing, be open about cannabis use (depending on state laws), and get an agreement on your lease. Don’t panic, and think actions through beforehand to avoid escalating the conflict. This situation was bad, interrupted my life and finances, but it did not end my relationship with cannabis. Property laws and protections for patients need to be put in place to safeguard all, while oversight of discrimination against MMJ patients’ needs to be established. Hopefully, in time, no one will have to fear being evicted, prosecuted, or jailed for cannabis in America, but only time will tell.