‘NOTHING I CAN DO’
Wright, owner of the Elk Rapids Apartments and their Shelby Township-based management company, Prime Properties Management, LLC, said he has been following a policy for two years to evict medical marijuana patients from his properties and he cannot make an exception in this case.
“If I start making special rules for her, I’d have to make special rules for everyone,” Wright said.
He said he has already evicted other tenants over medical marijuana use, though he didn’t know how many, and he said it has never stirred controversy. Wright’s company owns apartment buildings throughout the state, primarily in small, rural towns.
Wright said he wants to help Montroy and he recently extended the eviction period by 30 days, but he said she has been unwilling to accept his offer to help her find a new apartment.
He said since Montroy receives state housing aid, as opposed to federal aid, she needs to find housing in a complex operating through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
He said he would otherwise like to keep her as a tenant.
“The government pays for her rent. I’d like her to stay there, and I feel for her story, but there’s nothing I can do,” Wright said.
He said his “no medical marijuana” policy follows an opinion from the USDA Office of General Counsel that says landlords should not tolerate marijuana use. He said if he changes that policy now it would be unfair to his tenants who expect a drug-free environment.
“Federal law trumps state law,” said Wright, who is an attorney. “It’s still a violation of federal law if you have drugs in your apartment. If I make an exception now, I have no policy.”
‘AMOUNTS TO DISCRIMINATION’
Daniel Korobkin, an attorney with the ACLU in Detroit who is working on behalf of Montroy, said medical marijuana users should have a right to be free from housing discrimination.
“The people of this state said overwhelmingly with their vote that they supported the right to use medical marijuana, just like other citizens use other medications to treat their illnesses,” Korobkin said. “What this really amounts to is discrimination against medical marijuana patients who are doing their best to treat their medical conditions the way their doctor has approved.”
Korobkin said federal law and policies regarding drugs in subsidized housing come from an era when there was concern about street-corner drug dealers and violent drug users in housing projects.
The policies did not envision a law-abiding, cancer-stricken woman in her 50s who poses no threat to her neighbors.
Korobkin agreed that federal policy says landlords who offer federally subsidized housing may evict based on medical marijuana use, but he said the policy also says that landlords should examine the specific facts in each case.
In this case, that would mean looking at the hardship Montroy has endured, the severity of her illness, and the likelihood that she could become homeless.
“The only question here is whether a landlord such as Lori’s is going to recognize that her illness and her medical treatment is entitled to the same respect as anyone else’s,” he said. “This is a clear case of somebody who is using medical marijuana to treat her illness. She’s not a threat to socitety.”
Korobkin said he could imagine circumstances where a landlord might rightly want to evict a medical marijuana user.
“Maybe in some circumstances, maybe a medical marijuana patient is a threat to the area and maybe, in those circumstances, it is appropriate to take action,” he said.