Maine State Housing Reconsiders Medical Marijuana Ban In Section 8 Housing 

Should the use of medical marijuana be allowed in Section 8 housing? That’s the tricky question the board at the Maine State Housing Authority once again wrestled with Tuesday. Last month the board voted 4-3 to ban the use of medical marijuana from all Section 8 housing, a move some board members admitted they made out of fear of repercussions from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. While medical marijuana is legal in Maine it still violates federal law, and Section 8 housing is paid for with federal dollars. Some board members said they were concerned that by allowing medical marijuana, they risked losing all of the federal money. “We need that clarity. It’s against federal law. We’re at risk of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Board Chair Peter Anastos said at the meeting. “I was faced with medicine or housing,” Don LaRouche of Madison said Tuesday. LaRouche got a letter telling him if he didn’t stop growing and using his medical marijuana, which is perfectly legal under Maine law, he would lose his housing subsidy. That would force him back on high powered narcotics. Among those trying to convince the board to reconsider, members of the medical marijuana community, a state lawmaker, and a lawyer for the ACLU of Maine. They presented a letter to the board, sent from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development to all public housing authorities. In that letter, the federal government leaves it up to the individual states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana to decide if they want to allow medical marijuana in Section 8 housing. “The decision of whether or not to allow continued occupancy or assistance to medical marijuana users is the responsibility of PHA’s, not of the department,” the letter reads.Folks like Alysia Melnick, an attorney for the ACLU of Maine, said it can’t be said any clearer than that. “Our job today was to try to encourage them to walk through that door the federal government has opened.”Representative Deb Sanderson of Chelsea told the board exactly what she thought they should do. “Just adopt state statute. We’ve got a very, very good state statute here. It’s well controlled. We aren’t under scrutiny like they are in Colorado, or California where they’re having all sorts of problems,” Sanderson said.Another concern of some board members is the notion that marijuana is a gateway drug that can lead to addiction issues. That notion was quickly challenged by folks who argue that Maine’s exploding opioid epidemic is the real threat. “I don’t think we need to be worrying about medical marijuana. These are prescriptions given to people. What we need to worry about is the opioid addiction that’s escalating out of control in this state,” Sanderson said.The board decided to enact a six month moratorium to get clarification from the federal government before making their final decision. For folks like Don LaRouche, it’s a reprieve. “I’m relieved to know I can make it through the winter anyways without having to worry about being on the street.”