Patients Have To Choose: Medical Marijuana Or Federal Housing Assistance?

No matter the state laws, sick people can't have both.

Photo by Claudia Weingart/EyeEm/Getty Images

It’s a terrible choice to have to make, but one that many are forced into. No matter where medical or recreational cannabis is legalized in the states, it remains a Schedule I drug, meaning that it’s illegal at the federal level. Thus, it’s not allowed in Section 8 public housing.

Living on a low income is hard enough. Now add an ailment like cancer or PTSD to the mix. Then to have what the doctor recommends as the best medicine for relief, marijuana, not be an option in one’s own home is just cruel.

As it stands, people living in medical states are able to get a medical marijuana card to ease what ails them and then are able to go to a dispensary or otherwise legally obtain cannabis to use in a safe space. There are a few problems with that when it comes to federal housing.

First and foremost, one is not even allowed to have a medical marijuana card and still apply for federal housing at the same time. Even if that stipulation was lifted, patients still aren’t allowed to imbibe inside the housing. There just aren’t a lot of places to vape or toke that aren’t home. Lounges are not allowed in most states, and though there would be the potential option of going to a friend’s house to medicate, asking the very ill to be mobile as well isn’t always going to be an option.

In June, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced a bill called the “Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act of 2018” to allow for recreational or medicinal usage of cannabis in federally assisted housing when cannabis is allowed by state law. A spokesperson for the congresswoman said that they are still seeking cosponsors for the bill.

One patient caught in these crossfire is Ms. Cease, who was approved for her medical marijuana card and then immediately denied her application for federal housing. She has no criminal background, weaned herself off of opiates with cannabis and has a qualifying condition for cannabis use. She’s been back and forth with the housing committee since last December and has one more chance to make her case, but she’s not optimistic.

“What they’re going to do is say, ‘We get federal funding and it’s against federal law,’” Cease told the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette. “It’s a crazy thing to do to an old woman who has no criminal background, and who owes nobody anything, and is living in a place where you cannot expand your mind.”

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