Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, April 16, 2018

"Joint Tenancies: Property Leasing in Cannabis Commerce"

297462604.Def.LThe title of this post is the title of this revised ABA Book Publishing text authored by Michael Newton Widener. Here is the start of the text's introduction:

Initially published in 2012, in its revised edition, this book remains the only work inviting careful thought about the commercial landlord’s risk and reward scenarios in leasing to marijuana businesses. And Joint Tenancies gives the prospective tenant a valuable background in how to coordinate with potential landlords to address concerns about the occupancy of these businesses. While it is not written to be a pageturner or to offer readers entertainment, there’s no point in ignoring these basic facts: Today, possession, transportation, and sale of Cannabis remain federal crimes under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (sometimes referred to in this book as the “CSA” or the “Act”).

Until Cannabis is rescheduled to permit its use under that federal Act or the CSA is disposed of by federal legislation such as the 2017-introduced Marijuana Justice Act, the operation of a marijuana dispensary or store, or a grow site, is a federal crime punishable under the federal courts’ sentencing guidelines, which impose fines and jail time. The fact that marijuana sales are legal under your state’s law does not change one basic principle. Legal compliance with state laws governing marijuana business operations is not a defense to federal drug or money laundering charges.

As explained in the main text, property leasing to a marijuana business today, whether it’s a retail operation or a cultivation or “grow” location (abbreviated as an “MBE” in this book), exposes a landlord to civil and criminal penalties. One commercial landlord in Montana (Jonathan Janetski) went to federal prison in 2012 for leasing his warehouse to an MBE that violated the law governing cultivation sites.1 Among other penalties available to federal authorities is forfeiture of a landlord’s property. Forfeiture, as explained later, means the government takes away a citizen’s real estate and doesn’t give it back and doesn’t pay money or other consideration for its forfeiture. Nothing lighthearted or entertaining there, is there?

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