When Don LaRouche woke up yesterday he thought he was going to lose his home in two weeks unless he signed a piece of paper saying he would no longer grow, use or possess the marijuana that has, for years, allowed him to relieve the suffering caused by glaucoma, Crohn's disease and chronic back pain.  Fortunately, in a decision that brought a wave of relief through the patient and caregiver community, the Maine State Housing Authority Board issued a 6-month moratorium on implementing their October 3rd vote to ban medical marijuana patients from possessing, cultivating, or using their medicine in subsidized housing. For these patients MSHA’s decision would have, as Mr. LaRouche described it, forced him to “choose between my home or taking care of myself.”

Patients who use marijuana to treat the crippling symptoms of serious illnesses like MS or Crohn’s disease, or to lessen the harsh effects of treatments like chemotherapy pose no danger to themselves, their neighbors, or their community.  

Low-income patients are already engaged in a daily battle to stay alive. And they have the support of their neighbors – both in Maine and nationally – to use the medication that best alleviates their pain and suffering. In 1999 and again in 2009, voters in Maine overwhelmingly granted patients the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes and approval for medical marijuana polls at about 77% nationally. 

While possession and use of marijuana remains technically illegal under federal law, and MSHA repeatedly professed their concerns about loss of federal dollars, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has sent clear directives permitting states to craft rules allowing medical marijuana patients to remain in their public housing.

It’s pretty simple - no one deserves to be put out in the cold for legally treating the crippling pain, nausea and weakness caused by AIDS, glaucoma or cancer.

It’s just not right.  Especially when MSHA has no real reason to do so.

So we are thrilled that yesterday’s vote means sick and disabled Mainers can look forward to the holidays without the threat of potential eviction looming over their heads.

But because this is only a 6-month reprieve, we must remain vigilant

I am hopeful that as MSHA continues to learn about the benefits of marijuana, hears more stories from patients, and receives assurances about the security of HUD funding, they will reverse their decision outright, and allow Maine patients to again go to sleep in their homes without the added stress of eviction or the fear of giving up the very medication that allows them to have quality of life.  

To learn more about medical marijuana and public housing, check out my comments to MSHA.  And if you are a medical marijuana patient in public housing and are willing to share your story (openly or anonymously), please get in touch at amelnick@aclumaine.org.

And big thanks to Paul T. McCarrier and Hillary Lister of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, Caregivers John Stewart, Amy Green, State Representative Deborah Sanderson for providing passionate testimony and for patient Don LaRouche for telling his story.