October 31, 2014

Town in Maine Cuts Public Housing for Medical Marijuana Patients

from maine.gov's medical cannabis section

7/29/2011 - The Brewer Public Housing Authority passed a ban on medical marijuana this week. Maine residents with qualifying medical conditions have accessed cannabis though home cultivation or caregivers since 2000. Voters approved an expansion of the law in 2009 that allows eight dispensaries. The first four opened this year. But it will be impossible for seriously ill Brewer Public Housing tenants to participate in the state’s compassionate use program.

The Bangor Daily News reported:

“No resident can use medical marijuana in our projects [and] if they do they will be evicted,” Executive Director Gordon Stitham said.

The ban covers both public housing units and privately owned properties that fall under the federally funded Section 8 housing program, he said.

“Any landlord or any tenant receiving public assistance under the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program will not be able to use medical marijuana in their units,” Stitham said. read full

This could mean that those patients already in the program who wish to keep their housing must use the therapy and store their supply away from home.

But wait, there’s more. Here’s the most chilling part of the BHPA decision:

“You can have it, but you’re not going to bring it into our projects,” Stitham said, adding that applications for housing from medical marijuana patients will automatically be rejected.

“We’re not going to be able to serve you because of the medical marijuana,” he said. read full

Unfortunately, Brewer is not alone. Housing authorities around the country have made the same move to create a hard policy of denying any applications from registered medical marijuana patients. Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon have issued similar bans.

Kris Hermes is the spokesperson at Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a national lobbying group for medical marijuana. They also have an impressive record of successful lawsuits protecting people’s civil rights. He said they frequently hear from patients who are affected by these policies.

“This is definitely a common complaint,” said Hermes. “People report to ASA that they are being discriminated against by landlords and housing authorities.”

These new policies seem like clear cases of discrimination against low-income individuals dealing with a major illness, such as cancer or HIV. But because of the close tie-ins with federal funding, especially Section 8, the local managers tend to defer to the fed.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) did issue a memo in January 2011 to address this issue. HUD pointed out that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, therefore no accommodations are required for patients in state programs.

But Keith Stroup Esq. at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) pointed out that HUD left the policy decision up to housing managers. “The impression we had is that the local authorities have the discretion,” said Stroup today.

Memos from the US Department of Justice have also made clear that federal authorities should not interfere with individual medical marijuana patients. Local housing boards may need to take the DOJ position into consideration as well as HUD’s comments when deciding on a policy.

Some states, like Rhode Island, have stronger language in their compassionate use laws that may serve to protect patient housing. But the only way to really gain those protections is to get a court ruling to strike down a local ban.

In Brewer, Maine, the blanket opposition to medical marijuana seems to be standard operating procedure. A moratorium was passed in 2010 to make sure none of the state-regulated dispensaries could locate in the town. Regardless, enforcing the new housing policy may be extremely difficult. New provisions were enacted by Maine’s Legislature this year that expand privacy protections for those in the medical cannabis program. Patients are no longer required to be part of the state registry.

Kris Hermes at Americans for Safe Access said, “It is unconscionable in this age to be preventing poor medical marijuana patients from participating in public housing.”

Read more at Freedomisgreen.com

IMPORTANT - Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

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Maryjane’s Corner

Sensible Science

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com


 

 

Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

6/30/2011 – UPDATE 7/1/2011 – Freedomisgreen.com obtained the new Department of Justice memo concerning medical marijuana. The communication is from US Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole.  It was released on June 30th after New Jersey US Attorney Paul J. Fishman forwarded it to NJ state AG Paula Dow. The memo was sent to Dow in response to her multiple requests for federal clarification about medical marijuana operations authorized by state law.

Below is the full transcript. Link to original memo as a pdf [Read more...]

Vermont Prepares For Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Medical marijuana growing in a CA regulated facility - photo by C. Goldstein

6/6/2011 – Governor Pete Shumlin is keeping Vermont on a steady course to open medical cannabis dispensaries amidst a recent storm of federal activity. Seriously ill residents can already cultivate at home or through a caregiver, now Shumlin has signed a law that will attempt to implement a small medical cannabis system in 2012.

Sue Allen, Communications Director for Gov. Shumlin, spoke with Freedomisgreen about the careful approach right now in the Green Mountain State. [Read more...]

ACLU Calls on US Attorney General For Cannabis Clarification

Medical marijuana growing in CA

5/10/2011 - The national office of The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a letter to the US Department of Justice about medical marijuana. It asks for Attorney General Eric Holder to fully clarify the federal position regarding the seriously ill and often terminal patients who grow or possess cannabis legally in their state. [Read more...]

Rhode Island Gov Caves to Fed, Stops Medical Marijuana Centers

5/2/2011 – Governor Lincoln Chafee has announced that he will put an indefinite hold on the state’s three medical marijuana dispensaries from opening after receiving a threatening letter from US Attorney Peter Neronha on April 29th.

The Providence Journal published Chafee’s press statement:

May 2, 2011
Statement from Governor Lincoln D. Chafee Regarding Compassion Centers

The United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island delivered a letter to me on Friday afternoon which was copied to the Director of the Department of Health and the three Compassion Center applicants. That letter, as well as similar letters sent to officials in other states, clarified the Department of Justice’s position on medical marijuana. The Department of Justice previously indicated that it would not focus its limited resources on doctors and their sick patients who prescribe and use marijuana if such use was permitted by state law. This position was interpreted by some states as giving them latitude to authorize medical marijuana cultivation and distribution programs. Friday’s letter makes it clear that DOJ will now pursue certain commercial cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana, even if such cultivation and distribution is permitted by state law. Compassion centers, their owners, landlords, financiers and other operations “facilitators” are identified as potential targets of federal law enforcement activities.

None of Rhode Island’s compassion center applicants have received a certificate of registration to date. In light of the United States Attorney’s articulated position on closing compassion centers, seizing proceeds and prosecuting business enterprises that market and sell medical marijuana, I have placed a hold on the State’s medical marijuana certificate of registration program. During this hiatus, I will be consulting with the governors of other states with similar medical marijuana programs, with federal officials and with the compassion center applicants themselves.

Several governors have recently alluded to a planned meeting on the medical marijuana issue. The National Governors Association is the official body of these elected officials. NGA is currently led by Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington.  DOJ also sent a letter to Gregoire, that action prompted her to veto parts of a new law that would have regulated medical cannabis dispensaries.

Read more at Freedomisgreen.com:

Fed Curls Fist at Rhode Island Marijuana Dispensaries

Medical marijuana in New Jersey gets more complicated

4/29/2011 - The medical cannabis program enacted by the Garden State in January 2010 has not yet gone into practice. Now things have become even more complex. The first six permits for non-profit Alternative Treatments Centers were granted to groups with deep pockets and strong political influence. But that did not stop NJ Attorney General Paula Dow from sending a letter to the US Department of Justice asking for clarification.

The move last week put the nascent cannabis program in the federal government’s harsh spotlight. The April 22, 2011 letter states, in part:

As the state’s chief legal adviser to all of the departments in the Executive Branch, many of which are participating in carrying out the medical marijuana legislation, it is critical that I properly advise them as to the potential criminal and civil ramifications of their actions in carrying out their duties. [Read more...]

NJ: Better to ask for permission, than beg for forgiveness

By Vic Pinho in Jersey City, NJ - Just when you thought New Jersey’s medical marijuana program couldn’t get more perverse, the state’s top lawyer decides to inject herself into the mix.

NJ Attorney General Paula Dow’s office sent a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder late yesterday asking for clarification on the federal government’s stance on NJ’s medical marijuana program. Specifically, Dow’s letter inquired as to whether those licensed to grow or sell pot — as well as the state workers who will administer the program when it launches later this year — could face arrest.

“As the state’s chief legal adviser to all of the departments in the Executive Branch, many of which are participating in carrying out the medical marijuana legislation, it is critical that I properly advise them as to the potential criminal and civil ramifications of their actions in carrying out their duties,” according to Dow’s letter.

“Accordingly, I ask that you provide me with clear guidance as to the enforcement position of the Department of Justice relative to New Jersey’s medical marijuana legislation and the scope of the entities and individuals who may be subject to civil suit or criminal prosecution,” the letter said.

These legal questions potentially raise more obstacles to implementing an already delayed program.

Read more about New Jersey at www.cmmnj.org