Las Vegas cancer patient Robert Jones has lost his medical marijuana plants, his caretaker, his access to medical cannabis providers--and, most recently, his home. As the latest in a long line of misfortunes related to his use of medical cannabis, Jones now faces eviction at the end of November.
Jones, a member of the state's medical marijuana program almost since its inception in 2007, first qualified for US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 public housing assistance in March 2009. (A year earlier, he participated in another HUD program.)
"They have known about my participation in the medical marijuana program from the beginning," Jones writes in an email. Jones says he applied recently to change housing locations in order to be closer to his state-appointed caregiver.
"That way, I wouldn't have to schedule being sick for when he's here," Jones half-jokes.
He's not joking. Despite being a consistently fervent advocate for the state's medical cannabis program, Jones uses a wheelchair and sometimes needs help breathing or performing daily tasks. His caretaker, John "Bill" Emerick, is with him seven days a week; Jones describes himself as "extremely disabled" and "practically homebound."
Jones' state of health matters. According to a 1999 HUD memo, which spokesperson Donna White says she thinks is HUD's most recent opinion on the question of medical marijuana use in public housing, local housing authorities must decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether to admit or evict medical marijuana users. In deciding that, public housing authorities (also known as PHAs) must take into account three qualifications (verbatim, from the memo):
1) the physical condition of the medical marijuana user;
2) the extent to which the medical marijuana user has other housing alternatives, if evicted or i[f] assistance were terminated; and
3) the extent to which the PHA or owner would benefit from enforcing lease provisions that prohibit illegal use of controlled substances.
In short, it's probably best not to kick out a cancer patient who reckons his only alternative would be a nursing home. (Hard to tell what the "benefit" clause means.)
White says HUD's official stance on medical marijuana is that, despite what programs states have in place, it's still a controlled substance on the federal level. HUD can't condone it, but the memo provides some wiggle room under local housing authorities' purview.
Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority Director Ed Romero tells SFR his agency has a stated policy against medical cannabis. But unlike in Jones' case, Romero says residents are told from the beginning that they can't use cannabis. That makes for fewer unpleasant surprises; Romero says he can't recall any situations like Jones'.
Calls to San Miguel County officials were not immediately returned, but County Manager Les Montoya told the Las Vegas Optic today that he plans to investigate the issue.
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