Medical marijuana patients in subsidized housing don't have to be evicted, feds say

The concern for MMJ patients living in subsidized housing is that while the state says they can puff for their pain, the federal government, which pays their rent, doesn't recognize cannabis as medicine.

But are the feds loosening up?

Because of the Colorado-versus-U.S. government conflict, many low-income patients have been evicted from their homes by federally subsidized housing authorities afraid of losing funding, according to Vincent Palazzotto, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America (MMAPA, formerly the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of the Rockies).

But a statement released by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development to MMAPA, says it is up to each local housing authority to establish whether or not medical marijuana patients following state laws can receive housing assistance. From the letter:

[Public Housing Authorities] have discretion to determine, on a case by case basis, the appropriateness of program termination for the use of medical marijuana. PHAs in states that have enacted laws legalizing the use of medical marijuana, like those in Colorado, must therefore establish a standard and adopt written policy regarding whether or not to allow assistance for residents who are medical marijuana users. The decision of whether or not to allow the continued occupancy of medical marijuana users is the responsibility of PHAs, not that of the Department.

In Colorado, housing authorities are run at the county and sometimes municipal level. For instance, Denver has the Denver Housing Authority. Polazzatto says he has had no word from the DHA on their policy, and calls from Westword were not returned. When they are, we'll update this post.

For his part, Palazzotto interprets the memo to mean patients who have already been kicked out of public housing simply for being a card-carrying med pot patient may be able to petition those evictions if no local policies regarding medical cannabis exist.

The memo makes no mention of actually medicating on site, and that is something Palazzotto says isn't currently on the table for discussion. He says the most important thing is protecting a medial marijuana patient's right to have a roof over his or her head. In a city as progressive as Denver is about homelessness, he says evicting people from their homes because of the medicines they use doesn't help that situation.

"This is a big first step," he said. "I think it is important that they do take a stance, so people don't have to live in fear."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of the Rockies aims to put patients first."

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