Marijuana Patient in Pennsylvania Sues State After Being Denied Public Housing
Section 8 housing provides homes for disabled or disenfranchised Americans who cannot afford private residences. But since pot remains federally outlawed, public housing beneficiaries are being booted from Section 8 for being medical patients, even in weed-legal states.
Published on February 11, 2020

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Public housing doesn’t allow weed, but a recent appeals case in Pennsylvania may change that — if the plaintiff wins, that is.

Later this week, the Commonwealth Court in Indiana County will hear the case of Mary Cease, a medical marijuana patient registered with the state. In 2018, Cease applied for Section 8 federally-assisted housing, and on her application, she wrote that she was a card-carrying cannabis patient. Her application was denied on those grounds alone.

Cease told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that vaping cannabis weaned her off of addictive opioid painkillers she once took to control pain from multiple back surgeries. Marijuana not only helped with the pain, it also relieves the anxiety caused by post-traumatic stress. 

“I’m happier than I’ve been in years,” she said about her new life with medical cannabis. “I get out and go to the library; I go shopping, spend time with friends, go to concerts... things I hadn’t been able to do before.”

According to Pennsylvania’s rules, marijuana isn’t allowed in Section 8 housing since public housing subsidies are funded by the federal government, and the federal government considers marijuana an illegal drug as bad as heroin. 

The Keystone State currently has a medical marijuana program for patients such as Cease, but no recreational pot laws at the moment. However, a recreational weed bill introduced to the state senate late last year may make it onto the governor’s desk. And if it does, Pennsylvania will become the second state after Illinois to legalize adult-use weed and sales entirely through its legislature (as opposed to a voter referendum). 

Additionally, Cease’s case may get a boost if a federal bill, the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act, makes it through Congress and receives Trump’s signature. The act would exempt medical weed from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s ban on illicit drugs in public housing. However, the law, if passed, will only apply to registered patients residing in states that have legalized medical marijuana. 

In the meantime, Cease isn’t taking her chances on Congress. “The case isn’t just about me,” she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m setting a precedent for thousands of other people in the same situation due to bureaucratic nonsense.”

Cease has a clean criminal record, too. “I’ve never even had a parking ticket,” she said

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Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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