420 Magazine Background

Debate Over Medical Marijuana Could Affect Housing

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Michigan - The federal government has told property managers of federally subsidized units they can evict tenants who use or possess marijuana — including those who use medical marijuana legally under Michigan law.

In response, a Kalamazoo-based property management firm sent a memo on March 17 to more than 6,000 residents of its federally subsidized units, some of which are for people who are elderly or disabled. It said that if they were found “smoking, growing or in possession of marijuana on the property or in your apartment, regardless of medical prescription, you will be given a 24-hour eviction notice,” the first step in an eviction process.

The issue creates a new gray area between state and federal governments where marijuana laws are concerned.

The memo, obtained by the Kalamazoo Gazette, was sent by Medallion Management Inc., which owns six rental facilities in Kalamazoo, including the Rickman House in downtown, three in Portage and 12 around Southwest Michigan. Medallion’s Web site says the company operates in “over 94 communities providing rental homes for approximately 6,400 families and individuals throughout Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.”

Michigan law allows for the use of medical marijuana for residents with a qualifying condition. But the federal government considers all uses of marijuana to be illegal — even by those who have recommendations to use medical marijuana and live in states that have laws allowing it.
“We have to follow the law given to us,” said Scott Beltz, vice president of Medallion. “We’re kind of caught in the middle.”

Beltz said Medallion received an e-mail from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of General Counsel in early March that gave the agency’s opinion on the use of medical marijuana in federally subsidized housing. Medallion gets its federal money through the USDA’s Rural Development division, Beltz said.

The USDA memo states that marijuana — whether for medicinal uses or not — is illegal in the eyes of the federal government and that federal law “pre-empts state law.”

The memo also provides “enforcement actions” property owners can take when illegal drugs are found, including terminating the lease and denying entry into the dwelling until the person “agrees not to commit drug violations in the future and has completed, or is in the process of completing, drug-related counseling.”

The memo further states that current regulations establish that landlords are responsible for monitoring illegal drug use. Any actions taken by landlords should be done in “a non-discriminatory way,” it says.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to illegal drugs,” Beltz said.

Does that apply to medical marijuana?

Said Beltz, “I don’t know. It appears so.”

The firm does not have a policy on how it would investigate tenants who are suspected of possessing or using medical marijuana.

Greg Francisco, executive director of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, said, “The federal government is wrong on this issue. Our state says that medical marijuana is legal. The compassionate choice is the hard choice. Don’t evict these people.”

He said landlords who would give an eviction notice to those who use medical marijuana would be “cowards hiding behind policy,” adding that the decision is a “moral one.”

Up to discretion

Landlords have some discretion on whether to enforce the federal rule.

Although there is lease language that prohibits illegal drug use in federally subsidized housing units, enforcement is “up to the property owner,” said James Turner, director of the state’s USDA Rural Development program.

“I don’t have an opinion on the memo they (Medallion) sent out, but landlords have discretion in these cases,” he said.

Turner said he was not aware of other property management firms in the state that have sent similar memos to residents.

The state does not have any policy language on the issue, said Mary Lou Keenon, spokeswoman for the Michigan Housing Development Authority.

“I don’t know how they are going to do that at this point,” she said of the possibility of eviction. “We may have language on that in the future, but right now we don’t.”

Federal protection

In October 2009, the Obama administration told the U.S. Justice Department that federal funds should not be used to prosecute those using marijuana for medical purposes who live in states that have medical-marijuana laws.

In the memo to federal prosecutors in the 14 states that have medical marijuana laws, the Justice Department stated that it was committed to the “efficient and rational” use of resources, and that prosecuting medical-marijuana patients who are in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state laws didn’t meet that standard.

John Targowski, a Kalamazoo lawyer who has handled multiple cases involving medical marijuana and has advised the Kalamazoo Coalition for Pragmatic Cannabis Laws, said medical-marijuana patients should be approached lightly with regard to the possibility of eviction.

“Obviously, marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government,” he said. “Evicting a person who is using marijuana for nonmedical reasons is one thing, but to evict a patient operating under state law is another.”

Similar cases

In October, Lori Montroy, an Elk Rapids resident who has been treating effects of her stage-4 brain cancer with medical marijuana, was told by the property manager that she would be evicted from her federally subsidized Elk Rapids Apartments unit after apartment staff found marijuana plants growing in a locked closet in her apartment.

Montroy, 49, had a state-issued identification card indicating she was a legal user of medical marijuana. Still, Montroy was told she had to leave her apartment by Jan. 1 based on federal law that declares marijuana illegal. To date, she is still living there as her case is being appealed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“No one deserves to be put out in the cold or on the streets for treating an illness (with medical marijuana),” said Rana Elmir, director of communications for the ALCU of Michigan. “Landlords are not compelled to evict if a person using medical marijuana is operating within the law. They are given full discretion to treat patients with care and allow them to stay in their homes.”

Beltz said Medallion has sought evictions for tenants who were using illegal drugs in the past, but “didn’t know” how the firm would enforce the federal rule on medical marijuana at its properties, adding that “we don’t have a policy on that.”

To date, no resident has been evicted for possessing or using medical marijuana, he said.
“We don’t have a personal position on medical marijuana,” he said. “I don’t make money on empty units.”

NewsHawk: User: 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: mlive.com
Author: Chris Killian
Copyright: 2010 Michigan Live LLC
Contact: Contact Us - MLive.com
Website: Debate over medical marijuana could affect housing | - MLive.com


On Vacation
The Federal government is discriminating. Would the Federal gov't tell people who take vicoden they will be evicted? Obviously the federal gov't wants disabled citizens to be homeless
Top Bottom