Medical Marijuana Patients Can Get Booted From Public Housing


SF Weekly

Medical marijuana patients in California enjoy protection from criminal prosecution under state law, but that’s about it.

Patients can be fired at any time for legally using cannabis as authorized by a physician, and patients living in public housing can be evicted at any time, reports Chris Roberts at SF Weekly. The likelihood of actually becoming homeless due to being a medicinal cannabis patient depends on exactly where you live, according to activists and tenants.
Municipal government units such as the San Francisco Housing Authority hire private companies to manage, as well as to build, some of the units, Roberts reports.

Last week, tenants at Hunters View, a newly rebuilt development in Hunters Point, were outraged over a long list of pushy, “paternalistic” rules imposed by the John Stewart Company, as reported by Joshua Sabatini at The SF Examiner. The rules “strictly prohibited” the use or possession of marijuana, “even medical marijuana.”
“The company appears free to set any rules it pleases, even if those rules ban behavior that’s protected under state law, the SF Weekly reports. “So if a Hunter’s View resident is a medical marijuana user, he or she is free to find other housing, or risk being evicted for taking their preferred medication.”
“They sign a lease in the plain light of day,” Housing Authority spokesman Rose Dennis said haughtily. “They have to abide by that and they have to pay their rent.”
Despite the fact that it’s a city agency, the San Francisco Housing Authority relies on federal law — the Uniform Controlled Substances Act — to determine what is considered an “illegal drug.” And, of course, cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.
Federal officials have ruled that neither public housing, nor landlords who take Section 8 vouchers, are required to make “accommodations” for medical marijuana patients.
“If I was in a wheelchair, they’d have to put a ramp for me to access my unit,” said Greg Ledbetter, an activist with Black and Brown Just Cannabis Policy. “If I can’t smoke in my unit, then where is the place for me to smoke?”
Meanwhile, according to residents and activists, low-income medical marijuana patients who find themselves in public housing managed by John Stewart or directly by the S.F. Housing Authority have to keep their medicinal cannabis use a secret or risk eviction.
Any change in local policy — such as a provision allowing medical marijuana patients to use their medicine in public housing without fear of eviction — would have to come from the Board of Supervisors, which, according to the SF Weekly, have “barely touched medical marijuana — and is unlikely to do so anytime soon.”