Woman with brain cancer may lose apartment over medical marijuana conflict
By Anne Stanton
A 49-year-old Elk Rapids woman suffering from brain cancer has been
threatened with eviction for growing medical marijuana in her bedroom
I am so emotional right now, said Lori Montroy in a tearful
conversation. I am really sorry, but I dont understand. I just dont
understand. I cant believe theyre throwing me out in the streets.
Montroy moved into Elk Rapids Apartments, a week before she underwent
emergency surgery in May of 2008 to remove a brain tumor that had
grown to the size of her fist. The doctor said he couldnt get it all
because he hit spinal fluid, she said.
Now the manager of the apartment complex has ordered her out by
January 1, contending that medical marijuana, although legalized by
state voters a year ago, still violates federal drug laws. The Obama
administration announced earlier this year that federal district
attorneys had been instructed not to pursue prosecution of lawful
medical marijuana use.
Montroys threatened eviction carries obvious implications for
thousands of Michigan medical marijuana users who rent apartments or
homes (a total of nearly 5,900 are registered as medical marijuana
patients). Elk Rapids Apartments is managed by the Gardner Group of
Michigan, which oversees 2,000 rental and condominium units in
Montroy said shes too sensitive to many prescription drugs, and
marijuana helps her with depression, pain and sleeplessness. Anecdotal
research has suggested marijuana may help shrink tumors, but Montroy
said that hasnt been true in her case. Since her surgery last year,
her tumor has been classified as a Grade 4, the most severe
classification, and shes continued to suffer head-splitting pain.
Montroys life has been plagued by seizures, headaches, nausea,
crippling fatigue, and pain that has frequently driven her to thoughts
of suicide. Her seizures and head pain emerged in her 20s, making life
particularly difficult as she raised three children by herself.
Montroy said she tried for years to discover what was wrong with her,
yet doctors refused to give her a brain scan until late 2004, when an
MRI revealed the brain tumor. She was diagnosed with astrocytoma, the
same type of brain tumor that afflicted the late Senator Ted Kennedy.
Overwhelmed by depression and head pain, Montroy began using marijuana
in late 2006. In May, she received a medical marijuana patient card
from the state and began growing four plants. She did not mention it
to Susan Grodi, the apartment manger because the plants were lawful,
In October, Grodi advised the residents that she would begin searching
apartments on a certain day each month, whether anyone was home or
not, said Montroy, who sat at the kitchen table of her cluttered
apartment. She shares the one-bedroom unit with her 25-year-old son by
curtaining off part of the dining room. (He came home to be by her
side for her surgery last year and never left, Montroy said.)
On October 23, the knock came on the door.
I was there when she (Grodi) came in and began looking all over,
Montroy said. The plants are under lock and key in my bedroom, and
the grow lights are on and she could see the light through the crack
in the door. I told her the law says it has to be kept under lock and
key, and she almost broke the door down trying to get into the closet.
So I had to tell her, I have medical marijuana. I let her look at my
card. She took a copy of it and has been hassling me ever since.
After the visit, Grodi gave Montroy some paperwork, saying she wasnt
allowed to grow marijuana at the complex, because the apartments are
government subsidized and she was not allowed to grow illegal drugs.
I told her, Yes, I am. I have the legal right to grow marijuana in
my own home. She took a copy of the card, and said, You cant have it
here. I told her, I want paperwork, I want to see the proof. And
she said, Okay, Ill get it to you.
That was on a SundayI didnt hear nothing back from her for a week.
She finally came and gave me this paperwork. It was about illegal
drugs and trafficking. I said Wait a minute. This doesnt make no
sense. This doesnt have anything to do with me, nothing about medical
marijuana. She said, Ill have to get some different paperwork.
Thats when I got an eviction notice yesterday. But Im legal.
The December 2 eviction notice cited her lease agreement which reads:
Federal Controlled Substances Prohibition: It is understood that the
use or possession, manufacture, sale or distribution of an illegal
controlled substance (as defined by local, state or federal law) while
in or on any part of this apartment, complex or cooperative is an
illegal act. It is further understood that such action is a material
RESEARCHING THE LAW
Steve Morse, an ACLU attorney in Suttons Bay, referred Montroy to
Nadav Ariel, a volunteer attorney in ACLUs Detroit office. Ariel said
he is still researching the law; it would be premature to draw any
And the case is a bit complex. The apartment is state-subsidized,
which is a good thing, because there must be state action in order
for an evicted person to have recourse to the federal constitution or
other federal laws. But her apartment building falls under the
authority of a federal agency, USDA-Rural Development, which is a bad
thing, because marijuana is still a prohibited controlled substance
under federal law. The ACLU Detroit office plans to meet with the
Michigan Poverty Law Program to figure out Montroys options, Morse
Montroy said she pays $151 rent; the balance is paid by the Michigan
State Housing Development Authority.
What about the apartment search? Morse said that the Fourth Amendment
requirement of a search warrant only applies to a police agency. A
tenant has a right to privacy and to be free from intrusion by a
landlord, unless the tenants right is modified by the lease.
If the lease is silent about the landlord entering the premises at
any time, Lori might have a civil case against them, he said.
Morse said medical marijuana patients should notify their landlord
that they have a medical condition and wish to grow marijuana within
the laws parameters. That way, the patient will know up front if the
landlord is going to have an issue.
Meanwhile, Montroy is facing the prospect of moving in with her mom
who has an older mobile home in Elk Rapids. She stayed there while
recuperating from her first brain surgery. She never thought shed
have to live there again.
Grodi and the Gardner Group, owners of Elk Rapids Apartments, did not
return a phone call from Express, asking for comment.
Bob Heflin, leader of Traverse Citys Compassion Club, said its hard
to tell if the pressure to evict Montroy is coming from the
administration of the Gardner Group or from an apartment manager who
has clearly lost her heart, if not her head, when she attempts to
implement an outdated policy at a sick womans expense.
Evicting a legal, medical marijuana cancer patient for using
state-approved medicine? Whats Christmas without a Scrooge?