A Massachusetts couple is currently facing eviction for smoking medical marijuana on their porch.
On July 26th, Francine and Timothy Weinandy, residents of Sutton Place Apartments in Agawam, received a letter stating they were being evicted for smoking pot on their front deck. The couple have lived in the apartment complex for 26 years, but recently moved to a smaller apartment within the complex for financial reasons.
Timothy Weinandy has been disabled since 2001, and Francine had to close her business in 2016 after being diagnosed with cerebral white matter brain disease. The couple have registered with the state to legally use medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of their illnesses, and while they usually vape, they admitted to smoking weed from a pipe on their porch.
According to the eviction notice, the couple signed a no-smoking clause in their lease that prohibits them from smoking in their apartment or within 20 feet of the building. The couple violated this policy by smoking on their porch, and (at least) one of their neighbors ratted them out to the management. “The fact that you have a prescription for marijuana… does not negate the no smoking policy,” Lawrence Farber, attorney for Sutton Place, wrote in the eviction letter, MassLive reports.
Farber made it clear that the couple were being evicted not for using medical marijuana, but for smoking in the complex.
“This is a no smoking property, which means you can’t smoke anything,” the attorney told MassLive. “You can’t smoke cigarettes, you can’t smoke marijuana, you can’t smoke cloves. We don’t care what it is. All the other residents at the property don’t want to smell your smoke.” Farber added that the management had no problem with the couple vaping or using cannabis edibles in their home.
The Weinandys are contesting the eviction, and will argue their case before the Springfield Housing Court in September. “No one deserves to have their home taken away from them because of pot,” Francine said. The couple argue that they should not be evicted for a first-time infraction due to their disability. They also note that the strict no-smoking policy is not enforced against neighbors who smoke cigarettes or cigars on the apartment grounds.
Independent attorneys agree that while Massachusetts law prevents a landlord from evicting a tenant over medical marijuana use, it is within their right to evict a tenant who violates a non-smoking policy.
“Anyone who’s a medical cannabis patient has the protection of the state’s disability anti-discrimination law,” said Michael Cutler, a Northampton attorney who specializes in cannabis policy. “That applies to employers and landlords.” However, a landlord is allowed to ban all smoking on their property, as long as they enforce the rule equally against any form of smoking.
Nichole Snow, executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, has seen other medical marijuana users in the state face eviction because they smoked medical marijuana.
“It’s been very, very sad,” she told MassLive. “The landlords have the upper hand, and the way they interpret things in court is so strict, and it doesn’t favor patients that are seeking to end their suffering.”
Across the country, residents of public housing struggle with similar woes because federal law bans all federally-illegal drugs, including state-legal medical marijuana, in all public living complexes. Lawmakers proposed a bill that would allow state-licensed medical marijuana patients to use their medicine in public housing, but the legislation has yet to pass.