Medical Marijuana Banned From All Section 8 Housing

Rob Poindexter

Updated 2 years ago

Mainers who receive the section 8 housing subsidy, and are also legally participating in Maine’s medical marijuana program, will have to stop one or the other soon.This after the Maine State Housing Authority board voted 4-3 last night to ban medical marijuana from Section 8 housing.Folks in Section 8 housing will no longer be able to grow or smoke marijuana in their apartments or they risk losing their housing assistance entirely. “We took a very firm stand,” said Bruce Poliquin, who serves as the Maine State Treasurer and a member of the Maine Housing Authority’s board of directors. “There will be no growing of marijuana in these apartments. No cultivating of the substance. And we restricted the smoking of the substance in those apartments.”Poliquin said it’s a matter of safety for other occupants of the buildings that house tenants that receive the Section 8 housing subsidy, especially children. “We want to make sure that we respect everybody who needs medical attention and are legally using medicinal marijuana for treatment of their ailments,” Poliquin said. “At the same time we have roughly 3200 of these Section 8 apartments around the state of Maine. There are probably 5000 individuals that live in those 32 apartments, including children. We have to make sure those apartment buildings and those apartments are safe for everybody who lives in the buildings.” Maine has allowed prescribing, and limited possession, of medical marijuana since 1999. Maine voters overwhelmingly approved Maine’s Medical Marijuana Act back in November of 2009, allowing the cultivation of medical marijuana under the close supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services. Representative Deb Sanderson, a Chelsea Republican, disagrees with Poliquin. Sanderson says there are simply no facts to back up the notion that medical marijuana breeds unsavory activity. “Though I understand Treasurer Poliquin’s concern, there is no evidence that allowing patients to access medical marijuana as directed by their physician has increased crime in any way in Maine, nor has it caused a safety concern,” Sanderson said. However, Sanderson argues, there is mounting evidence that the alternative medication that these patients will be forced to use does cause crime rates to not only rise, but skyrocket. “If these patients are forced to abandon using a natural form of medication and transition to pharmaceuticals, ie narcotic pain relievers, we do have evidence of a rising problem with long term pain management and addiction to opioids. Almost weekly, another break-in or pharmacy robbery is reported.” The board’s ruling directly affects people like Don LaRouche of Madison. He was diagnosed with glaucoma six years ago. A year later, he was given a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana to treat his glaucoma, muscle spasms, and chronic pain. He’s also receives the Section 8 housing subsidy. LaRouche is on a fixed income and without being able to grow and use his medical marijuana, he’ll have to rely on narcotics. “Then what do I do? Do I just sit in this chair and not be able to function? At least I can function,” LaRouche told us back in July.Don LaRouche rents a house and lives alone and feels like he’s not bothering anyone by growing and using his medicinal marijuana at his home. Despite the fact that he doesn’t live in an apartment setting, Poliquin says, after the board’s ruling, he will still lose his housing subsidy if he doesn’t stop growing and using his marijuana in the house. “Because we still have the problem of cultivating it and having authority for oversight of these apartments and possibly having a criminal or possible law breaking activities within these apartments,” Poliquin said.Sanderson argues that by banning the use of medical marijuana in these housing units the board is going beyond the scope of their authority. “MSHA’s authority is to see that the housing they subsidize is safe and up to code. Period. It is not to police activity of a tenant. That is a job for law enforcement and law enforcement has the exact jurisdiction of section 8 housing as they do regular rental units or private housing. If there is evidence of illegal activity, they will address it,” Sanderson said. The board will be notifying those who are affected by the ruling soon. They’ll have 30 days from the date of that notification to stop any growing or smoking of medical marijuana. It is possible the board could reverse the ruling at their next meeting scheduled for later this month. “I hope the board does revisit this and perhaps speak to several patients who use medical marijuana.” But Poliquin says it’s unlikely they’ll reverse their position on medical marijuana for section 8 recipients. “It’s always possible to revisit issues, but the board has taken a pretty strong stand on this,” Poliquin said. “At least those that voted to restrict this substance from these apartments.”


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