CHAMPAIGN — If you live in a smoke-free apartment building and want to indulge in some legal marijuana next year, you may need to step outdoors to light up.
State lawmakers left it up to individual landlords to decide whether they want to allow pot smoking in or on their rental properties, and at least two owners of smoke-free apartment complexes said they won't be making an exception for marijuana smoking.
Rick Elkin said all of Heartland Properties' Danville apartments are smoke-free — and that applies to smoking of any type.
"We ask smokers to go outside and far enough away not to bother others around you," he said. "We look at all smoking as a cause of destruction of property. It is very expensive for Heartland to mitigate the effects of a smoker, making a unit virtually unrentable after a smoking tenant leaves."
Elkin said cleaning up after a smoking tenant often calls for carpeting to be removed, electrical devices to be replaced and walls to be wiped down and repainted to get rid of the odor.
Not only that, he said, smoke can waft into neighboring apartments and irritate other tenants.
The University Group, which has about 2,000 all nonsmoking rental units in Champaign-Urbana, also doesn't distinguish between tobacco and pot smoke in its rules, though any request for medical use of cannabis would be taken up on a case-by-case basis, according to the company's president and CEO, Chris Hamelberg.
The University Group hasn't had much of an issue with tenants disregarding no-smoking rules inside apartments, he said, but those tenants who do smoke in their apartments have to foot the bill for extra cleaning costs, which are subtracted from their security deposits.
Edibles enter equation
Legal use of cannabis in other forms, such as edibles, is another matter.
Once recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois, Hamelberg said use of cannabis products that don't violate the University Group's no-smoking rules would be considered a tenant's own personal business.
Tenants in federally-supported public housing apartments won't be free to indulge in pot at home at all.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has required all public housing properties to be smoke-free since last July. Marijuana use, even for medical purposes, remains illegal under federal law and public health authorities must prohibit admission to public housing and housing choice voucher programs for illegal use of controlled substances — even marijuana in states that have legalized it.
UI: In review mode
How about smoking marijuana in University of Illinois dorms?
Both the Smokefree Illinois law and the university's own rules already ban smoking in college dorms. The UI's smoke-free campus rules define smoke or smoking as "the carrying, smoking, burning, inhaling or exhaling of any kind of lighted pipe, cigar, cigarette, cigarillos, hookah, beedies, kreteks, weed, herbs, electronic cigarettes, water pipes, bongs, marijuana or other lighted smoking equipment."
UI spokesman Tom Hardy said the university will need to review its policies in light of both federal law and the new state marijuana law.
"I think we're going to take a look at this law and review the language and be mindful of the rule-making process that will be taking place and address it to make sure that we're consistent with our policies and state and federal law," he said.
Before the state rolls out legalized recreational marijuana, public health officials need to have a hand in regulations that will come with that, according to Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde.
For instance, she said, children must be adequately protected, and nobody should have to breathe in marijuana smoke if they don't want it.
"In general, any place we don't want you smoking cigarettes, we don't want you smoking pot," Pryde said.
Research has found at least some THC, the intoxicating compound in marijuana, turns up in the blood of non-marijuana smokers who breathe in the second-hand smoke, but researchers have concluded more study is needed about potential health risks.
What has been determined is that marijuana smoke is a throat and lung irritant and that it contains levels of certain chemicals and tar similar to what's in tobacco smoke, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Legalization may actually spare more kids from being exposed to marijuana and second-hand pot smoke indoors, because some people have been hiding their illegal pot-smoking inside their homes, Pryde said.
Once using marijuana is legal, pot smokers will be free to step outside and smoke as many tobacco smokers do, she said.