A Trump administration official said on Sunday that she is working to resolve conflicting federal and state marijuana laws as it applies to residency in federally-subsidized housing.
Lynne Patton, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regional official who oversees New York and New Jersey, responded on Twitter to a story about John Flickner, a 78-year-old man who was recently evicted from his Niagara Falls, New York, apartment over his use of medical cannabis to treat chronic pain.
“State & federal law needs to catch up with medicinal marijuana usage & require private landlords to legally permit the same. Period,” Patton wrote. “Regardless, my team is already working with Mr. Flickner & a local grantee to place him in permanent housing again, as anyone else in his boat.”
State & federal law needs to catch up with medicinal marijuana usage & require private landlords to legally permit the same. Period. Regardless, my team is already working with Mr. Flickner & a local grantee to place him in permanent housing again, as anyone else in his boat.
— Lynne Patton (HUD) (@LynnePattonHUD) December 9, 2018
Flickner was invited to move back into the apartment days after his story was first reported by The Buffalo News. The company that owns the apartment said it is revisiting its policy on medical cannabis. It’s unclear whether HUD played a role in that reversal.
There have been concerns that as New York expands its medical marijuana program, and moves forward with broader legalization as well, more tenants in federally-subsidized homes will find themselves facing eviction because federal law allows landlords to deny housing to people who use cannabis.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed a law that forbade landlords who run government-subsidized housing facilities from accepting tenants who use illicit substances. But the decision to evict Flickner—and any other individuals who use medical marijuana in such facilities—is ultimately left up to the discretion of the landlord.
That’s because during President Barack Obama’s administration a 2014 memo clarified that the 1998 law “affords owners the discretion to evict or not evict current tenants for their use of marijuana.”
Marijuana Moment reached out to Patton via Twitter to inquire whether her department under the Trump administration is considering a more explicit memo protecting medical cannabis patients, but she did not respond by the time of publication.
As Patton and her team prepare potential steps to ensure that individuals who use marijuana in compliance with state law don’t face the same situation as Flickner, there’s also the possibility of congressional action on the issue. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced a bill in June that would create federal housing safeguards for both medical cannabis patients and adult-use marijuana consumers.
Under the legislation, “smoking marijuana would be treated the same as smoking tobacco in federally-assisted housing.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include new information about Flickner’s housing status.