Property owners can evict marijuana smokers, legal experts say

Experts say there's still confusion over the law

LONE TREE, Colo. - State law says you can smoke marijuana legally inside your own home, but 7NEWS has found that may not be the case if you're a renter.

If your lease prohibits marijuana use of any kind, you could be evicted, even for eating a marijuana laced brownie in your home. But it's more difficult for landlords to prove a renter is consuming marijuana edibles than, say, smoking it.

Property owner Terry Powell has specific rules for renters, and no smoking inside is one of them.

"The cost of cleaning (those properties) up is phenomenal," said Powell.

Standing in front of his rental home in Lone Tree, Powell still has a lot of questions about the new pot laws and how they impact him.

"Can I keep them from growing it?" said Powell. "If I find it, can I destroy it? Can I evict them immediately?"

We took those questions to legal expert and former judge, Jim Miller, and Miller says it's not as cut-and-dried as you might think.

"You can't clear up any confusion definitively in this area right now," said Miller. "And that's because of the distinction between what's legal under Colorado law versus federal law."

Miller said what is clear is that landlords can draw-up lease agreements prohibiting marijuana use in the lease.

"That begs the practical question, how are you going to know if anybody's violating that prohibition in the lease? That would be pretty tough as a practical matter," said Miller. "While you can prohibit the use of marijuana, there are probably some practical limitations in discovering."

Because of that, Miller says contracts should be comprehensive.

"Be very specific about marijuana use," he said.

As for Powell, the new law might force him out of the rental business.

"Since I don't want it on the property, I may not rent it again," said Powell.

The problem for landlords is that many leases might include non-smoking clauses, but they're not specific to marijuana use.

If a current lease prohibits illegal activity on the property, now that marijuana is legal -- the lease has no provisions for marijuana use.

In those cases, property owners might consider drawing up new leases with amendments, including marijuana.