VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 11   |   MARCH 16 – 22, 2011

MARCH 17, 2011

Housing Officials Speak on MMJ

First-Of-Its-Kind Response from HUD Impacts MMJ Patients

DENVER – U.S. housing officials have released to the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America (MMAPA) a first-of-its-kind statement concerning eviction policies surrounding medical marijuana patients who reside in government housing facilities.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently issued a statement to MMAPA on behalf of Secretary Shaun Donovan, suggesting that the Public Housing Authorities themselves are responsible for establishing and adopting written standards regarding providing federal housing assistance to low-income and disabled medical marijuana patients. 

Patients evicted by Public Housing Authorities on the basis of using medical marijuana may now have recourse to challenge the evictions if no written standards were in place by those individual Public Housing Authorities, believes MMAPA.  

Because medical marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, conflicts have arisen over medical marijuana patients benefiting from federal housing in individual states where medical marijuana is legal, such as Colorado and California.

"This response is significant," states MMAPA founder Vincent Palazzotto, whose organization advocates for and assists indigent medical marijuana patients in accessing affordable medicine.  "MMAPA demanded answers, and we got them, but the answers are certainly not the solution.  U.S. housing officials have passed the buck to the individual housing authorities without creating uniform standards.  Uncertainty for low-income and disabled medical marijuana patients will only continue."

In a letter to MMAPA from Milan M. Ozdinec, deputy assistant secretary for Public Housing and Voucher Program, federal housing officials make it clear that the individual Public Housing Authorities are responsible for establishing standards concerning medical marijuana patients.

"PHAs have discretion to determine, on a case by case basis, the appropriateness of program termination for the use of medical marijuana," states the letter from Ozdinec. 
"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," continues the letter.

Several reports have surfaced documenting the evictions of medical marijuana patients from federally subsidized housing facilities.  These patients may now have a case given the fact that no written standards were in place by the Public Housing Authorities at the time of their evictions. 

"It now seems that existing patients can be protected at the discretion of each Public Housing Authority," states Palazzotto.  "In continuing our fight to ensure MMJ patients living in federally-subsidized housing facilities are protected, MMAPA is requesting that each and every PHA across the U.S. where MMJ is legal provide their existing tenants with a written policy on this important subject matter." 

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