Tuesday, March 22, 2011

HUD edges toward tolerance on marijuana

Huffington Post reports on a remarkable letter from HUD to a Colorado medical marijuana nonprofit, the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of the Rockies. The letter, by Milan Ozdinec, deputy assistant secretary for public housing and voucher programs, appears at the foot of the article. It says public housing authorities (PHAs)
"have discretion to determine, on a case by case basis, the appropriateness of program termination for the use of medical marijuana. 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."
That's a new, interesting part, about PHAs' responsibility to state a policy specifically in states with medical marijuana laws. It suggests a possibility that open tolerance within the rule of law could become the norm. That would be a great change from marijuana-related evictions. It would also be a great change from the current form of tolerance, which consists of managers' quiet winking at skunky smells in hallways. Any time you have illicit permissions, you have an atmosphere of blackmail and personal patronage/control, and tenants who are living on sufferance in the one sense have to be afraid to assert more clearly defined rights in other areas of their tenancies.

The letter builds and expands on an earlier internal HUD memo -- copy here, again via HuffPo -- saying that HUD-funded housing authorities can't actually allow medical marijuana use as a disability accommodation, but "they maintain the discretion either to evict or refrain from evicting current residents who engage in such use," within the limits of the oh so pleasantly named Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998. The memo notes that QHWRA bans current drug use at admission to public housing, but allows discretion in its "termination standards."

So, kind of good news for sanity in the War On Some Drugs.

While they're at it, by the way, seems to me there should be rules about second-hand doobie smoke as strict as those imposed on tobacco smokers. My neighborhood is a marijuana dispensary area, and while semi-legalization is a fine policy measure, your basic general public should get to choose whether to breathe other people's smoke or not. My pet peeve is walking to work in the morning behind a patient who is already puffing on a daily dose. I get tired of holding my breath. There's a time, place and manner for these things. I guess sooner or later the rule of law will catch up to that part too.

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