Marijuana Smoking is Allowed in LEED Buildings

Today 20 states allow medical marijuana use and Colorado and Washington state have laws allowing recreational marijuana use. Colorado started allowing recreational marijuana use in January and Washington is expected to allow sales this summer.

While there are a patchwork of current laws for legal marijuana that vary from state to state, and legislation is pending in at least 6 states, it is clear that there has been a major shift in attitudes across the country to now allow marijuana smoking for medical and even recreational purposes. 

Those laws trump and supersede most, if not nearly all, “no smoking” laws. However, LEED certified buildings generally prohibit smoking, irrespective of law, and that has led to inquiries about whether marijuana smoking is allowed in a LEED building?

The answer is simply, yes, you can smoke marijuana in a LEED certified building assuming it is otherwise legally permissible in the jurisdiction to do so (but, see the disclaimer below about federal criminal laws).

Many are aware LEED includes the Indoor Environmental Quality Prerequisite 2, “Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) Control”. The rating system language explains, “Intent. To prevent or minimize exposure of building occupants, indoor surfaces and ventilation air distribution systems to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).” ETS is arguably what is commonly described as secondhand smoke from the burning end of tobacco cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, including as exhaled by smokers.

And LEED offers options to comply with that prerequisite. Option 1 is,

Prohibit smoking in the building. Prohibit on-property smoking within 25 feet (8 meters) of entries, outdoor air intakes and operable windows. Provide signage to allow smoking in designated areas, prohibit smoking in designated areas or prohibit smoking on the entire property.

LEED offers a second option with two alternatives: the first for non-residential buildings prohibiting smoking in the building except in designated smoking areas; and the second alternative for residential and hospitality projects prohibiting smoking in all common areas of the building.

But none of that applies to marijuana. By its express language, beginning with the title, “Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) Control” this prerequisite is about tobacco smoke. The language is clear and precise, and unambiguous that it does not apply to marijuana smoke.

It important that when creating a LEED required smoking policy and signage that both make clear it is tobacco smoking that is being prohibited. More than one Colorado landlord is seeking advantage in the marketplace by advertising a “marijuana friendly” building. Many LEED smoking policies, certainly in the 20 states allow medical marijuana use, should now be revised to articulate that marijuana smoking for medical and even recreational purposes is permitted.

And while, of course, the author has no personal knowledge, today increasing quantities of marijuana is ingested through vaporizers versus rolled joints, not to mention in edibles from brownies to granola bars and butter to chocolate, such that concern over secondhand smoke from marijuana is lessening.  

On a related matter there is at least one medical marijuana cultivation and dispensary under construction in Massachusetts pursuing LEED certification.

While for many buildings it is likely necessary and proper that existing LEED smoking policies now be revised to articulate that marijuana smoking for medical and even recreational purposes is permitted; it is certainly important from this point forward that when creating a LEED smoking policy and signage that both make clear it is tobacco smoking that is being prohibited. 

“Federal and state laws [should] be changed to no longer make it a crime to possess marijuana for private use.” – Richard M. Nixon, 1972. Despite that statement, be aware that possessing, using, distributing and selling marijuana are all federal crimes and may be state crimes. Beyond the general disclaimer below about the purposes of the blog, this blog post is not intended to give you criminal law advice or for that matter, any legal advice. 

Photo Credit United Kingdom Cannabis Social Clubs    

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