MaineHousing boots medical marijuana from Section 8 units

AUGUSTA — The Maine State Housing Authority has decided it will not provide rental assistance to anyone who uses, possesses or cultivates medical marijuana in apartments that are paid for in part through the federal Section 8 program.

“We did this out of deference to federal law,” Deborah Turcotte, spokeswoman for MaineHousing, told the Bangor Daily News.

To be clear, MaineHousing’s decision does not affect a person’s status as a medical marijuana user or grower in Maine. It also doesn’t mean that registered users or growers of medical marijuana are immediately booted from the Section 8 program; it just means they are not allowed to do it in an apartment that receives federal subsidies, Turcotte said.

“It’s their choice,” she said. “They can go use it at a family member or friend’s house, as long as the family and friend’s houses or homes are not federally subsidized by Section 8.”

The agency became aware of the issue about three months ago, when during a series of Section 8 housing inspections — related to alleged mismanagement of the program — it became clear a handful of program participants also were medical marijuana growers or users, which revealed a complex situation where state and federal law does not agree.

In Maine, medical marijuana is legal to use and grow for certain people. Federal law, however, still considers marijuana, medical or not, an illegal controlled substance.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the federal Section 8 program, does not allow public housing authorities, such as MaineHousing, to admit a medical marijuana user into the program, according to a statement from MaineHousing. But the federal agency did allow state agencies to set their own policy to address current Section 8 voucher holders who are certified to use medical marijuana, Turcotte said.

MaineHousing’s board thought long and hard about the decision, she said. They read over state and federal law, and heard from landlords and tenants. But in the end, because of the federal government’s strict guidelines when it comes to controlled substances, “the board decided to apply that to medical marijuana, as well,” Turcotte said.

If the board had made the opposite decision, it would have put additional burden on MaineHousing’s inspectors, who are responsible for annually inspecting the approximately 3,900 Section 8 housing units in the state. They are trained to inspect homes for housing-related issues, not on how to tell a medical marijuana plant from an illegal plant. There are several federal and state laws that affect marijuana and medical marijuana use, Turcotte said, “but we are not trained on those ourselves. We administer housing programs.”

Turcotte said that there are currently fewer than 10 residents that MaineHousing knows of who are not in compliance with its new policy. Those residents have been notified and will be given time to comply, Turcotte said.

“If they’re unable to comply, we’re required to terminate their housing assistance,” she said.

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Comments

FRANK EARLEY's picture

If they could afford a decent apartment.....

If they could afford a decent apartment, they sure won't find it with Maine Housing. Who would want to? It's not like Maine Housing cares about the maintenance, people using pot to help pain is more important. I love it when they come out with these statements, just a day after we learn that three quarters of their units are almost uninhabitable. We have children living in complete squalor, but their disabled parents aren't High.......

Kristina Gailloux's picture

expensive

I think this is a great idea. If a person can't afford to pay for a regular apartment or housing then they for sure can't afford dope from a dispensary or the costs of the stuff you need to grow it! So, boot it right out!

 's picture

Medical Marijuana

If a person needs marijuana , they certainly have no rights living in federal housing. More than likely they are just growing it to sell in the first place. Chances are they grow it for themselves and sell what they don't use.

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