It truly sounds like something published by The Onion: an 87-year-old who has rented the same subsidized apartment for the last five years is being kicked out for violating their drug policy even though she lives in Durango, Colorado and has a recommendation from her doctor for her cannabis use.
Reportedly, a compliance officer smelled cannabis coming from Leo Oliver’s apartment. The result of that complaint was that the elderly woman, who says she wasn’t smoking at the time but has previously used cannabis for her arthritis pain, has only 10 days to find new housing on her fixed Social Security income.
A representative from the housing complex, who refused to discuss the specific case, told The Durango Herald that the standard policy is zero tolerance for anything illegal at the federal level, including cannabis. That means that although the state of Colorado allows for medical cannabis use and recreational use by adults, those who depend on state assistance are taking huge risks by choosing the lowest-rick medical option.
The only real defense these housing complexes can offer is that, somewhere, buried in pages of incomprehensible legalese which their signing agents encourage people to skip without reading, there’s a clause explaining that in their housing units, federal law trumps state law. And these laws don’t just apply to folks who want to grow cannabis; if you receive housing aid and even possess or consume cannabis, your aid could be at risk.
For Lea Oliver, the realization that this conflict is a serious issue comes too late; she has already been told she has to seek alternate housing. For people like her, with serious medical conditions, limited income, and very little support, the enforcement of an unscientific (and legally questionable) federal policy means the total destruction of what little safety and stability she did have.
Our social safety net is failing, and the government is trying to ensure that it specifically fails those who choose to use cannabis instead of addictive prescription pills.
What do you think? Should federal law trump state law in this case? Should the sick, disabled, and elderly be forced out of medical cannabis programs if they want to receive housing and other aid? Sound off in the comments below!
For previous Ladybud articles about how the War on Drugs affects the elderly, click here!
Photo Credit: Boyra under (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr