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ALBUQUERQUE, (AP) — A major property management firm has notified its New Mexico tenants that they must sign an agreement not to use or grow medical marijuana at home. But Dallas-based Monarch Properties Inc. later reversed the rules for apartments that don’t fall under federal regulations.
The company told tenants in August that although New Mexico is one of 14 states where medical marijuana is legal, marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
On Sept. 1, when the signed agreements were due, Monarch notified residents the new rules apply only to properties receiving federal funding.
The company manages 86 properties throughout New Mexico, most of which fall under Housing and Urban Development and Department of Agriculture regulations because they receive federal subsidies or financing or have tenants who receive federal rental support.
Monarch managers now say they will consider requests for “reasonable accommodation” for medical marijuana use at any of its properties if the resident qualifies under the federal fair housing law or the state Human Rights Act.
Companies are required to accept such requests from people the housing laws consider to be disabled or handicapped. Reasonable accommodation could include anything from wheelchair accessibility to the possibility of medical marijuana use, Monarch vice president Jack MacGillivay said.
He said the company is concerned about what it could do if a medical marijuana patient did not meet the federal definition of disabled or handicapped.
MacGillivray said the company has had no problems but developed the addendum to leases because federal regulations require a policy.
Monarch said HUD has had a zero tolerance policy for narcotics for years, including provisions for drug-free leases.
Deborah Busemeyer, spokeswoman for the New Mexico Department of Health, which oversees the state’s medical marijuana law, said property owners can make their own decisions and there’s nothing the department can do.
The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Albuquerque, Peter Simonson, said Monarch’s policy on medical marijuana appeared to be “an overly narrow reading of what federal statutes and federal guidance have been on this issue.” The federal government allows landlords discretion in responding to tenants who participate in medical marijuana programs, he said. ]
“Evicting medical marijuana users doesn’t do anything to advance the purpose of federal laws ... which is to guarantee the safety and security of people in public housing units,” Simonson said.
“We’re not talking about dealers or drug abusers. We’re talking about people using pain medications.”
HUD, in a nine-page memo dated Sept. 24, 1999, concluded state laws “purporting to legalize medical marijuana directly conflict with the admission and occupancy requirements” of the public housing reform law, and that federal law is supreme. HUD field offices had asked whether a subsidized tenant’s medical marijuana use required terminating a lease.
A memo from the USDA’s general counsel 10 years later also concluded federal law trumps state law.
Monarch manages more than 6,500 units in Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Angel Fire, Artesia, Aztec, Belen, Carlsbad, Clovis, Deming, Farmington, Gallup, Grants, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Los Alamos, Los Lunas, Lovington, Raton, Rio Rancho, Roswell, Santa Fe, Santa Rosa, Silver City, Socorro, Taos and Tucumcari.
The company said New Mexico is the only state with a medical marijuana law in which it has property.