It’s Official: Obama Administration’s Public Housing Policy Discriminates Against Medical Marijuana Patients

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director June 30, 2011

    One the many gray legal areas and conflicts with existing federal Cannabis Prohibition laws created by state medical cannabis laws and their protections for qualified patients is receiving proper media sunlight this week via the Willamette Weekly’s expose on a memo recently circulated to the residents of a ‘section eight’ housing unit in Portland, Oregon that informed the patients that the management company can legally discriminate against them if they’re legal, state-authorized medical cannabis patients.

    Is this kind of naked discrimination fair? 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 a government technocrat?

    Ironically, the rental management company can’t discriminate against poor people if their 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 compensated 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. Kudos to Human Solutions of Portland for continuing to respect Oregon law, common sense and basic decency.

    This Bud’s Not For You

    Tenants are told they can’t use medical marijuana in public housing.

    Two of the city’s public-housing agencies have told their tenants they cannot smoke medical marijuana in their apartments and houses.

    The warnings from REACH Community Development and Home Forward (formerly known as the Housing Authority of Portland) have drawn a line for the first time as the federal government continues to apply pressure to limit use of medical marijuana in Oregon.

    Home Forward has started telling tenants of its 6,200 units that smoking medical marijuana in their residences could get them evicted, even if they had been given prior permission to do so. But they can use medical marijuana in other forms. The letter says the ban will start in November.

    REACH has gone a step further, telling residents they cannot use medical marijuana in any form if their unit receives a federal subsidy or if they rely on a Section 8 housing voucher, also funded by a federal program.

    REACH officials didn’t return calls from WW.

    But Dianne Quast, Home Forward’s director of real estate, says her organization has been waiting for federal guidance out of fear it would violate state law if it denied tenants the right to use medical marijuana, or federal law if it allowed such use.

    She says Home Forward simply decided to fold marijuana into its general nonsmoking policy, which it put in place a year and a half ago.

    “We were stuck between two laws,” Quast says.

    The housing providers’ notices follow a series of warnings to states from U.S. attorneys, including Oregon’s Dwight Holton, that medical-marijuana dispensaries may violate federal drug laws.

    “It’s really disappointing, and I’m not sure, frankly, that it’s lawful or constitutional,” says Leland Berger, a lawyer who helped draft Oregon’s medical marijuana law and now represents patients and providers statewide.

    “It wouldn’t surprise me to see more litigation.”

    Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and that’s meant federal agencies and U.S. prosecutors have been at odds with state and local governments in the 16 states and District of Columbia where the drug is approved for use.

    Early in the Obama administration, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. Justice Department would not interfere with medical-marijuana operations under state law.

    But this year, the Justice Department signaled a change, telling governors of medical-marijuana states it would do more to police the drug’s use.

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, sent a memo in January to organizations it subsidizes, says Donna White, national spokeswoman for the agency. In Oregon, those agencies run about 44,000 housing units, home to between 88,000 and 132,000 people.

    In the memo, HUD leaves the decision to evict medical-marijuana users to housing providers, but it forbids them from granting “reasonable accommodation” for its use. Reasonable accommodation protects people with a disability from eviction—until now, that included anyone with a medical-marijuana card.

    Home Forward says it won’t seek any evictions. REACH’s ban on medical marijuana in any form in its HUD-subsidized properties could mean users would be kicked out.

    HUD also directs housing providers to deny applicants who disclose they use medical marijuana. For Home Forward, that means it must also deny such applicants for Section 8 vouchers, which subsidize rent for private properties.

    “So we simply don’t ask,” Quast says.

    Leland Jones, HUD’s regional spokesman in Seattle, says the memo stems from his agency’s efforts to clarify federal policy toward medical marijuana as states expand its use.

    “It’s important that all partners receiving federal assistance know what our rules of the game are,” Jones says.

    Some housing providers were probably confused before the memo, he adds.

    Some still are. Human Solutions is a Portland-based nonprofit that accepts Section 8 vouchers, but officials there don’t know what the policy means for them.

    “We are aware of the ruling, but it was unclear from our point of view whether it was imposed on us,” says Jean DeMaster, Human Solutions’ director. “As a result, we’ll continue to serve people who use medical marijuana as long as they have the marijuana card.”

    81 responses to “It’s Official: Obama Administration’s Public Housing Policy Discriminates Against Medical Marijuana Patients”

    1. The American Genesist says:

      “Thanking you in advance for your cooperation is a pipe dream.” I am thoroughly convinced that whoever thought this one up is “Lower than whale shit in the dead sea.” Louie from Vegas just said “Worm shit boz.” Someone is really picking a fight.

    2. Anonymous says:

      oh it “official” now? no kidding…

    3. J says:

      It says no accepted medical use in the United States yet they call it medical marijuana which is legal under state law for medical use! If they don’t want to let people smoke in homes they subsidize, fine, but can’t they please just get their words right?

    4. Ferguson says:

      It sounds to me that the notice is just saying you cannot smoke it. But as long as it doesn’t interfere with neighbors, go ahead and eat it. Too bad they can’t grow it though…

      I agree that people should be respectful and not smoke around other people, that includes govn’t subsidized housing in my opinion. I can’t stand second hand smoke, or moving into a home that smells like smoke. Granted, cannabis smells much better than cigs.

      Vaporize it instead.

    5. lorraine says:

      I supporterd and voted for Obama..
      He backpeddled/Lied on his stance during the elections RE:Medical Marijuana
      “Early in the Obama administration, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. Justice Department would not interfere with medical-marijuana operations under state law”
      I am very disappointed in this response by Obama administration – what is to happen to those of us
      who would rather use marijuana (a natural substance) INSTEAD harmful/addictive – man made drugs
      WE are not criminals – simply want relief to have management of chronic pain and quality of life..

    6. J.R. says:

      As a landlord & medical user of Marijuana i see nothing wrong with their decision . I have rented to people who smoke Marijuana & burns on carpets from lit joints happen quite frequently . The smell is also strong & unpleasent
      to those who both smoke & don’t smoke Cannabis . I’ve also lived and owned several properties in, Humboldt County . Several of my properties were right next door to ” growers ” houses & come the fall when harvest time was getting near the constant stench of Marijuana was overwhelming & unpleasent . Regardless of whether it’s medical or not i would not want any of my Pot smoking tenants disturbing my ” straight ” tenants with their stench of Marijuana .Everyone should respect everyone with their weed .It’s kind of like being poured over with beer .

      [Editor’s note: Your view makes no sense at all…especially as you claim to be a medical cannabis consumer. Why should the government be able to throw state-authorized and physician-sanctioned medical patients out of section 8 housing for following a medical regiment that includes cannabis. Does the federal government evict tobacco consumers? How about Oxycontin patients? Does the feds through out poor tenants who burn nasty smelling potpourri blends?

      “Stench” of medical cannabis growing? Hmmm….


      No medical cannabis patient views cannabis as creating an ‘unpleasant stench’ as most cannabis consumers love and appreciate the wonderful odor of both growing and dried cannabis.

      You’re not a medical patient…you’re a lying, rabble rousing anti-cannabis Prohibitionist.]

    7. somedood says:

      I am pretty sure the Nazi’s won the war at this point. Just not openly.

    8. Tim says:

      “It’s important that all partners receiving federal assistance know what our rules of the game are,” Jones says.

      So, it’s all a game? Well, I want my rights as a citizen granted to me. They need to stop playing games, stop playing “big daddy”, quit trying to impose their personal rules and beliefs on me and stay out of my life. I wonder how we re-enact the Declaration of Independence and throw it in the face of the “leaders” in D.C.? I’ve tried giving it to them, but they always send a note back to me quoting all their personal views to me on the issue, or just ignore me and they don’t respond. I’m frustrated and I’m about ready to go light up a joint in his face to prove my points!

      • Brian Norby says:

        Home forward has recently advised us that marijuana Has been decriminalized as of July 1st when in fact it was decriminalized in 1973 Has been legalized as of July 1st 2016 And of course there’s no using of the medical substance

    9. yoda says:

      Capitol hill ignoring us is not working, But in 2012 we will ignore you! We will have a candidate that supports an end to marijuana prohabition.

    10. Brandon says:

      Medical/Marijuana is just like the gay movement, and they may go hand in hand. It’s the stigmatization, the discrimination, against otherwise convalescent users that drives this “war” persistently forward. As for the alcohol and pharmaceutical industry: it’s competition. Huge competition; and that makes me smile 🙂