Cancer Patient and Veteran Evicted for Medical Marijuana

cannabis pills and opioids

Vice News reported that medical marijuana patients are being evicted from public housing.

Medical marijuana patients living in states with legal medical marijuana programs are being evicted or denied public housing. One Montana woman living with breast cancer learned that her status as a medical marijuana patient caused her rental assistance voucher for Section 8 to be refused.

Fifty-five-year-old Lily Fisher, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, is also disabled. Fisher lost part of her leg after she developed blood clots during one of her cancer treatments. Her lower leg was amputated as a result, and Fisher was prescribed narcotic painkillers.

Fisher was placed on hydromorphone and oxycodone for pain. She took the medication for a while but decided to quit cold turkey because the drugs left her feeling foggy. She applied for a medical marijuana card and was approved. She also applied for the public housing program because her disability payments are not enough to cover her rent and living expenses.

Medical marijuana is legal in Montana. The state Legislature legalized the drug in 2004 and medical marijuana cards are issued by the state Department of Public Health and Human Services. However, marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, and because public housing is part of a federal program, she was denied.

On Aug. 16, Fisher received a notice from the Section 8 Rental Assistance program saying that she had "engaged in illegal use of a drug," and therefore would be denied and removed from the waiting list. Fisher then received an eviction notice, all for legally using medical marijuana to control her pain instead of an opioid drug.

"I can't pay the rent, and it takes money to move. I don't know what I'm going to do," said Fisher.

Veteran Also Denied Public Housing Because of Medical Marijuana

Mary Cease is a disabled military veteran living in Pennsylvania who suffers from PTSD and severe back pain due to multiple surgeries. She was prescribed the opioid painkiller oxycodone, which she said made her feel terrible. "I felt disconnected on opioids. I felt like less of a human being because I knew they were bad drugs."

Cease, 66, stopped taking the opioid medication by weaning herself off the drug with marijuana after receiving her medical marijuana card. States with medical marijuana programs have fewer prescriptions written for opioid painkillers than states without medical marijuana programs.

Evidence also indicates that marijuana can help to heal brain tissue affected by prolonged opioid use and can help people addicted to opioids detox and remain off opioid drugs. New York recently added opioid addiction as a qualifying condition for the state's medical marijuana program.

The veterans' organization the American Legion supports legalizing medical marijuana because of its ability to control pain and help veterans with PTSD. The organization has had several unsuccessful attempts requesting that the United States Congress reschedule marijuana so that vets can legally consume the medicine.

Cannabis is currently classified with heroin as a Schedule I drug, making it illegal on the federal level. The classification also limits research on medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal in Washington D.C. and 31 states, yet the federal law prevents patients in legal marijuana states from benefiting from the medicine if they also live in public housing.

Cease is one of these patients and says that she finally got relief after taking medical marijuana. "You get the relief that you need and you're living like a regular human being," she said. Judith Cassel is her attorney and says that Cassel is wrongly being denied public housing for no good reason. "No one should have to choose between staying off opioids and a roof over their head," said Cassel.

At least 72,000 people died in the United States from an opioid overdose, but no one has ever died from an overdose of marijuana.