Housing Policy Discriminates Against Medical Marijuana Patients


Graphic: Nick Stokes Design/Willamette Week

​Tenants of two public-housing agencies in Oregon have been told they cannot smoke medical marijuana in their apartments and houses.

The warnings have drawn a line for the first time as the federal government continues to apply pressure against medical marijuana in Oregon, reports Corey Paul at Willamette Week.
The public-housing agencies involved in the warnings are REACH Community Development and Home Forward, formerly known as the Housing Authority of Portland.

Home Forward is telling tenants of its 6,200 units that smoking medical marijuana could get the evicted, even if they had already been given permission to do so. They will be allowed to use medicinal cannabis in other forms, according to the letter, which said the ban will start in November.
REACH has gone even farther than that, telling residents they aren’t allowed to use medical marijuana in any form if their unit is federally subsidized or if they rely on a Section 8 housing voucher, which is also federally funded.

Photo: Paul Chinn/SFGate.com
Allen St. Pierre, NORML: “Is this kind of naked discrimination fair?”

​”Is this kind of naked discrimination fair?” asked Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “Does this kind of mindless government-created discrimination in a lame attempt to uphold a virtually unenforceable prohibition make any sense to anyone other than government technocrat?”
“Ironically, the rental management company can’t discriminate against poor people if they’re elderly, women, military veterans, handicapped or minorities (or other resident medical patients that can lawfully use hundreds of thousands of other physician-recommended prescription drugs for any number of disease types and ailments)… but, the federal government and their well compensate with taxpayer dollars management companies can now legally discriminate against medical patients if they’re sick, dying or sense-threatened and a lawful medical cannabis patient.”
“This is another prime example of why 74 years of cannabis prohibition must end in America as soon as possible,” St. Pierre said.
Home Forward’s director of real estate, Dianne Quast, said that organization has been waiting for “federal guidance” out of fear it would violate Oregon state law if it denied tenants the right to use medical marijuana, or would violate federal law if it allowed such use.
“We were stuck between two laws,” Quast said.

Photo: NORML
Leland Berger, Oregon Voter Power: “It’s really disappointing, and I’m not sure, frankly, that it’s lawful or constitutional”

​”It’s really disappointing, and I’m not sure, frankly, that it’s lawful or constitutional,” said Leland Berger of Oregon Voter Power, a lawyer who helped draft Oregon’s medical marijuana law and now represents patients and providers. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see more litigation.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sent a January memo to groups it subsidizes, according to national spokeswoman Donna White. In Oregon, those agencies control about 44,000 units, housing between 88,000 and 132,000 residents.
In the memo, HUD leaves the decision on whether to evict medical marijuana users up to housing providers, but it forbids them from granting “reasonable accommodation” for medical marijuana use.
Reasonable accommodation is designed to protect people with disabilities from eviction — which, until now, included anyone with a medical marijuana card.
Home Forward claimed it “won’t seek” any such evictions. But REACH’s medical marijuana ban in its HUD-subsidized properties could mean patients will be kicked out, even for just using medibles or tincture.
HUD also instructs housing providers to deny applicants who disclose that they are medical marijuana patients. For Home Forward, that means it is required to also deny such applicants for Section 8 vouchers, which subsidize rent for private properties.
“So we simply don’t ask,” said Quast, who I’m starting to like.
The memo stems from HUD’s efforts to “clarify” federal policy toward medical marijuana, according to regional spokesman Leland Jones in Seattle.
“It’s important that all partners receiving federal assistance know what our rules of the game are,” said Jones, who added that some housing providers were “probably confused” before the memo.
But things still aren’t cut and dried in every instance.
“We are aware of the ruling, but it was unclear from out point of view whether it was imposed on us,” said Jean Demaster, director of Human Solutions, a Portland-based nonprofit that accepts Section 8 vouchers. “As a result, we’ll continue to serve people who use medical marijuana as long as they have the marijuana card.”
“Kudos to Human Solutions of Portland for continuing to respect Oregon law, common sense and basic decency,” said NORML’s St. Pierre.

Graphic: NORML Blog