At a statewide meeting of the Arkansas REALTORS Association (ARA) this week in Northwest Arkansas, the organization voted to oppose the two marijuana initiatives that are approved to appear on the ballot in November. ARA represents over 7,500 REALTORS from across the state. The two ballot initiatives are Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 and Issue 7, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act.
The members of ARA are focused on the detrimental effects the law would have for Arkansas property owners. According to REALTORS in states that have legalized marijuana, the negative effects of residential growing include structural damage, mold, non-permitted additions and even fires due to improperly stored chemicals or unlicensed electrical upgrades. These issues not only cause added expense when the resident moves out, but also affect property values and the favorability of the neighborhood in which residential growing of marijuana takes place.
Members of the ARA Legislative Committee reviewed information, from other REALTOR organizations in states where marijuana has been legalized, that detailed numerous incidences in which property owners were unable to lease to new tenants because of the smell left behind after tenants who had been growing marijuana vacated the property. The process to rehabilitate a property is costly for property owners. The Arkansas ballot initiatives specifically prohibit a property owner from refusing to lease to a tenant on the basis that the tenant is a medical marijuana patient. Issue 6 outlines more than a dozen conditions that would allow for the medical use of marijuana. In excess of 60 conditions for the medical use of marijuana are listed in Issue 7.
When a tenant grows marijuana and damages a residence, there is no legal protection for property owners. Marijuana is still illegal federally; therefore, if a tenant damages the property, even if there is a fire resulting from grow lights or an unlicensed electrical upgrade, a property owner’s insurance is likely to deny the claim.
The REALTORS chose to oppose Issues 6 and 7, the ballot initiatives that would legalize marijuana in Arkansas, because the organization does not see any up-side for Arkansas property owners, but plenty of downside. “Our fear is, we don’t know all of the downside that property owners in Arkansas might experience if these ballot initiatives pass,” explained Edward Loveless, ARA Legislative Chair.