70-Year-Old Cancer Patient Punished For Legal Medical Pot

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Photo: Santa Fe Reporter
Robert Jones: “I certainly am not engaged in drug-related criminal activity”

‚ÄčA hearing officer on Wednesday will take up the case of a 70-year-old New Mexico cancer patient who lost his federal housing subsidy because he legally uses medical marijuana.

Robert Jones, who joined New Mexico’s medical marijuana program in October 2008 when he was diagnosed with cancer, is appealing San Miguel County’s decision to revoke the subsidy, reports The Associated Press. Jones, a retired political consultant, said he told county housing authority officials that he used marijuana medically before signing a statement agreeing not to “participate in drug-related criminal activity.”
“I wanted to make sure they didn’t think that was criminal,” Jones said. “They said, “No, no, Mr. Jones, that’s fine.”
But apparently it wasn’t so “fine,” after all. On October 12 the housing authority sent Jones a letter telling him that he’d be dropped from the housing program as of November 30.
Although medical marijuana is legal in New Mexico, it’s illegal for any purpose under federal law, and his use violated the rule against “drug-related criminal activity,” the letter claimed.
“I certainly am not engaged in drug-related criminal activity,” Jones said.

His appeal will be heard by County Attorney Jesus Lopez at a special meeting of the San Miguel County Commission in Las Vegas.
The Section 8 program, which Jones joined in March 2009, pays $156 of his $400 monthly rent, he said. The housing voucher program is run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Jones said he stood on the porch and told the landlord he was in the medical marijuana program before he even looked at the Las Vegas, N.M., house he now rents. He is one of 1,266 legal medical marijuana patients in New Mexico who are licensed to grow their own supply.
The landlord, John Burns, said he has no problem with Jones using medical marijuana. He said he’s already talked to County Manager Les Montoya on Jones’ behalf and will be at Wednesday’s hearing to back him up.
HUD General Counsel Helen Kanovsky claimed federal law requires housing authorities and private landlords who participate in HUD rental assistance programs to have lease provisions giving them the right to evict people based on the “illegal use of controlled substances,” which federal law defines as including all marijuana use, even medical use, which is legal under the laws of 15 states.
The law, however, does allow discretion in deciding to terminate assistance for Section 8 tenants, Kanovsky said.
Jones relies on the subsidy and without it, “a nursing home would be the most realistic possibility,” according to his attorney, Jeremy Theoret of Albuquerque.
After Wednesday’s hearing, Lopez will make a recommendation to the county commission, which has two weeks to respond.
The case “brings up an element of compassion… recognizing that marijuana is medicine and it really does relieve pain and symptoms for people in Robert’s situation,” Theoret said.
This isn’t Jones’ first difficulty related to his use of medical marijuana to treat cancer symptoms.
Back in January, Jones spoke to the Santa Fe Reporter of his frustrations at not being able to get any medical marijuana under the state-licensed program — and then found himself cut off by his licensed producer, the Santa Fe Institute of Natural Medicine, which terminated Jones’ membership.
Though Jones didn’t mention the Institute by name in the SFR article, he did complain about rumored high prices ($400 an ounce) and lack of delivery to Las Vegas.
He only learned that SFINM had dropped him when he tried — unsuccessfully — to log onto its website.
After contacting the provider, Jones got an email dated January 14.
“In giving this quote to the press you released information in violation of the agreement you signed where you agreed that you would keep information regarding your membership with SFINM confidential,” wrote “Nancy B” of SFINM in the email. “For this reason, we are unable to serve you.”
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