Landlord workshop tackles marijuana issues

Officials hope to get funding to continue popular program

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

Published:

 

o A 2006 survey of renters in the Portland-Vancouver area found 75 percent of renters preferred to live in smoke-free housing but only 25 percent had such housing. In Clark County, only 17 percent had smoke-free housing. The survey also found that only about half of adult smokers regularly smoked inside.

Source: Clark County Public Health

Marijuana legalization has left Clark County landlords with many questions regarding their rights as property owners.

Can they ban recreational marijuana use in their units? Do smoke-free policies cover marijuana use? And what about marijuana used for medicinal purposes?

o A 2006 survey of renters in the Portland-Vancouver area found 75 percent of renters preferred to live in smoke-free housing but only 25 percent had such housing. In Clark County, only 17 percent had smoke-free housing. The survey also found that only about half of adult smokers regularly smoked inside.

Source: Clark County Public Health

Clark County Public Health has been helping landlords get answers to those questions — and questions on a variety of other topics — with free landlord training sessions funded by the county’s Community Transformation Grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But with the grant set to expire at the end of the month, the wildly popular workshops aren’t likely to continue. Public Health hosted its third training session Wednesday at the Vancouver Community Library. About 80 landlords attended the session, and more were turned away.

The county hosted similar workshops in June and October of 2013. Each reached capacity at nearly 100 people.

“They’re very popular trainings,” said Theresa Cross, a program manager at Clark County Public Health.

The training has an emphasis on smoke-free housing since it’s hosted by the department but covers a wide range of other topics. Each training session costs about $2,500.

Smoke-free housing is an important part of the department’s work, Cross said. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and is responsible for an estimated 480,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC.

In September 2012, the department conducted a survey of landlords in central Vancouver about smoke-free policies. About half of the landlords said they had smoke-free policies in place.

Cross suspects that percentage is higher if looking at the county as a whole. Informal surveys at past training sessions showed about 75 percent of landlords have smoke-free policies. A survey Wednesday indicated 82 percent of landlords in attendance had smoke-free policies in place, Cross said.

Since marijuana possession was legalized by Washington voters in 2012, landlords have asked more questions about their legal right to prohibit the drug’s use. Landlords say they’re faced with tenants who argue they have a right to use the drug in their home.

Landlords do, however, have the legal right to ban marijuana use on their properties, said John Campbell, a national trainer and consultant on landlord issues, who designed and presented the training session.

“Just like you can say, ‘You can’t smoke tobacco in my unit,’ you can say, ‘You can’t smoke marijuana in my unit,’ ” Campbell said during Wednesday’s training. “You can regulate marijuana just like you can regulate tobacco.”

Prohibiting marijuana for medicinal use, however, is a muddier issue, Campbell said. The Supreme Court has ruled the state medical marijuana law decriminalized the drug’s use but doesn’t provide protection for users, he said.

“It looks like a landlord would be on reasonably solid ground” to prohibit its use, Campbell said, but he urged landlords to consult with their attorneys before taking any action.

In addition to the training sessions, Clark County Public Health has used grant funding to update its no-smoking policies manual for landlords and created smoke-free building signs to distribute to landlords, Cross said.

The county has applied for another CDC grant to continue its smoke-free housing and other community transformation projects and should know in the coming weeks if it is awarded the money, Cross said.

If the funding is available, Cross said she would like to see the landlord trainings continue and wants to conduct a countywide survey of landlords on smoke-free housing policies.