Apr 28, 2014 1:41 AM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham
Arizona voters approved our state's medical marijuana act nearly four years ago. But, as the News 4 Tucson Investigators discovered, even today, not everything in the law is black and white.
That includes what rights renters have if they choose to use medical marijuana.
One east side Tucson resident, who just wants to be called Zach, tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, he is now working to get his medical marijuana card for the pain caused by arthritis.
"Some days I'll wake up with a knee or a hip or several fingers that simply don't want to work," Zach says.
The trouble is that the apartment complex where he lives asked him to sign paperwork, saying he won't use medical marijuana.
Zach tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators he believes medical marijuana patients are being singled-out, while people who use other drugs for pain are allowed to take their meds.
"They allow people to use Oxycodone under prescription, and Percocet, and a lot of other prescription drugs that have recreational possibilities," Zach says.
Meanwhile, organizations like AZ4NORML, which advocates for the rights of medical marijuana patients tell the News 4 Tucson Investigators, they're concerned about landlords telling their tenant what treatments they can use for their illness. AZ4NORML also believes that banning the use of medical marijuana sets a dangerous precedent.
"I think it's a tremendously slippery slope. What do we have the landlords able to tell the tenants next? This is an approved treatment. It was passed by the voters of this state, and landlords should respect that, and allow people to use this treatment in their own home," says Jon Gettel, AZ4NORML's Director.
Tom Salow, with the Arizona Department of Health Services tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, there are a lot of gray areas in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Ultimately, he says it will be up to lawmakers, and the judges to clear the air, and determine what rights medical marijuana patients have when it comes to where they're allowed to rent.
"To change the act itself would have to go to the legislature, or through another voter initiative. There might be some clarifications though that come through the court system," Salow says.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators went to the Tanque Verde Village apartment complex leasing office, to see if they would explain their rationale behind the medical marijuana ban. As we approached the office, we heard someone lock it, and a woman inside ignored our knocking on the door.
Later, we reached the landlord's attorney, Matt Koglmeier, who told us new residents are asked to sign the medical marijuana addendum so that they don't run afoul of federal law, which prohibits medical marijuana in government subsidized housing. The agreement is also meant to protect other residents from marijuana smoke in their apartments and common areas.
"People will use medical marijuana or marijuana, period, and just like cigarette smoke, you have second-hand seepage, it can't be helped. It goes into other apartments and people complain," Kgolmeier says.
He adds that he has seen a lot of cases where people with cards feel they need to grow medical marijuana in their apartments.
Zach tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, he's still trying to decide if he'll actually go through with getting his medical marijuana card, even after he signed the lease addendum, saying he wouldn't use medical pot in his apartment.
"Whether I actually decide to comply with it, might not be a good idea to alert the landlord," Zach says.
Though, he adds, if he does get is card, getting booted from his apartment is a risk he's ready to take.
"I'm a pig-headed son of a pup. If I have to, I'll go back to living under a mesquite," Zach muses.
If you have something you'd like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to check out, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at (520) 955-4444.