By Michael LeVeque
For some time, the subject of Medical Marijuana has been a serious issue discussed throughout the United States. As of right now, 11 states have legalized the usage of the drug for recreational and medicinal purposes, and 36 have legalized it for medicinal purposes only, with more to come probably. This issue has not passed over hotels, and stories of medical marijuana users suing hotels have begun to spring up in states such as California, Colorado, and Washington. Without proper knowledge of all the rules and regulations on this topic, you will come out on the losing side and your business will suffer.
The first thing you need to know is that medical marijuana users must have legal proof in order to use the drug for medicinal purposes. They need to have on their person either an official “Medical Marijuana Identification Card”, or a valid written recommendation from their health care provider. Please note that there is a strict amount of marijuana that users can have on their person, and that this amount varies per state. Take the time to know your states legal amount of medical marijuana. The usage of medical marijuana is similar to the usage of cigarettes, with it not being allowed 1000 feet near a school, youth center, a moving vehicle, or any other place where smoking is banned. Since the law prohibits smoking in public areas, the only place users can legally smoke their marijuana would be in a private area, which in this case will only be their room. In regards to your hotel, there are some uncomplicated rules pertaining to medical marijuana usage. Each state has their own separate laws on smoking in general, and even hotels can have no smoking rules. As a hotelier, you must be aware of your county, city, and state rules regarding medicinal marijuana. Also, if your hotel does have smoking rooms, it is highly recommended that you put medical marijuana guests in a smoking room. If you are wondering how to approach the subject with a potential guest, feel free to ask a clarifying question or two. If they ask for a smoking room, politely inquire as to what they will be using. If they ask why, tell them it will affect the cleaning of the room after the guest’s stay. Remember, the guest must have legal proof on hand, and that they are guests and must abide by the hotel rules.
Another key component to consider is the other guests. If possible, try to arrange guests’ rooms in a way that will cause no negative reaction to their neighbors’ actions. The smell of marijuana is very distinctive, and one that is easily recognizable. You will not mistake it for cigarette smoke or tobacco; it is unique. The smell will carry around, and sometimes other medical marijuana users will take advantage of that, regardless of legal proof. They might simply start smoking in their own room, outside near the medical marijuana guests room, and in some cases join the guest inside the room. If you have concerns, or the smell is becoming a hassle, check the guests’ room. If there are multiple people in there using, or nearby, ask to see their cards. If they have them, please remind them that smoking is only permitted in specific areas. If they are in the smoking room, inform them that they are affecting the other guests and politely ask them to stop. You have a hotel full of guests. You should never sacrifice the satisfaction of the majority for one person.
There is yet another controversial issue related to medical marijuana usage. According to federal law, marijuana is an illegal substance, and police can arrest users regardless of state laws. As stated previously, some guests might resort to informing the police of the smell rather than notifying the hotel staff.. You should have nothing to worry about, as long as you have knowledge of the situation before hand. If they are in a non-smoking room, then they are also in violation of hotel laws. If the guest is in a smoking room and have given previous notification of usage, you are fine. Also, you should not allow the growing of the plant by your guests during their stay. They are required by law to grow it in a private place, and your hotel is not that.
Suppose at the end of a medical marijuana guest’s stay, their room has a horrible stench and/or is damaged due to the usage of the marijuana. You might feel inclined to fine the guest; however, I would exercise caution in this case. If all the legal procedures were followed, (i.e. they have an official ID, carrying the legal amount, in a smoking room, and both parties are aware of the usage), the guest might feel inclined to press charges and suit. If that happens, you will probably lose. The lawyers for medical marijuana users typically go up against the federal government for their client, and your hotel staff might not be properly trained to handle them. Also, the guest will probably have the “peoples” support, and the overall opinion on forums and chat rooms is to go ahead and sue. There are ways that you can prevent this scenario. At the beginning of their stay, notify the guest that destruction of property is an offense that can be fined, and that the over usage of the marijuana can cause significant damage to the room, then advise them to refrain from smoking large quantities. If the guest has prior knowledge to this fact, than you have a valid reason to fine them.
There are a few things to consider as a final note. One, this is your establishment/business, and all guests must abide by your rules. Second, you have other guests, and should keep everybody’s well-being and satisfaction your goal. Third, it would be in your best interest to make an official medical marijuana policy for your hotel. A written policy would help cover your hotel in eliminating unwanted exposures. Finally, the users of medical marijuana must have legal proof, and must abide by the rules in the usage of it.