LongHairBri Posted January 13, 2011 Report Share Posted January 13, 2011 Woman evicted from federally subsidized apartment for using medical marijuana January 12, 2011 - mlive.com At 25 years old, Shannon Sterner said she lives with pain. The Leoni Township resident has tried medications to manage the effects of fibromyalgia and reactive arthritis brought on by an infection. For the last nine months, she has been using a new method to deal with the discomfort caused by her conditions: marijuana. But her use of the drug, allowed under Michigan’s medical marijuana law, resulted in eviction from her federally subsidized apartment this week. “They said I violated my lease for having an illegal substance,” said Sterner, who was ordered to vacate her home at Ridgewood Vista Apartments by Wednesday afternoon. “For me, I was under the assumption it was legal and I didn’t do anything wrong.” The incident highlights confusion with the 2008 Michigan law, especially as it relates to conflicts with the federal government, which considers the substance an illegal drug. Sterner and her attorney, Michigan Medical Marijuana Association President Michael Komorn, argue she was not breaking the law. But housing complex managers contend they must comply with federal rules to continue to provide federally subsidized housing. Tenants must keep their homes free of illegal drugs when they sign a lease, said Gary Offenbacher, executive vice president of Bingham Farms-based Continental Management, which owns Ridgewood Vista. Offenbacher said Sterner’s neighbors had complained about a smell of marijuana smoke. The Jackson Narcotics Enforcement Team responded to her apartment at 5340 Ridgewood Vista Drive on July 28 and seized five marijuana plants from the back porch, said Michigan State Police Detective Lt. Dave Cook, who leads JNET. The case is pending review from the county prosecutor, Cook said. Sterner was not arrested and denies growing the plants on her porch. She said seeds might have fallen into a potted rosebush while she was smoking. Offenbacher said the housing complex was forced to act. “I can’t dispute her legal use within the state, but there are certain agreements tenants make when they live on federally subsidized property. She was not abiding by that,” Offenbacher said. “The federal government holds us to different standards.” District Judge Michael Klaeren sided with the housing complex in December in a legal dispute over the eviction. Sterner received an eviction notice Monday. “It’s distressing because Shannon is sick,” said Komorn, who is considering an appeal. “She is being singled out for her choice of how she wants to treat her medical condition. She was doing nothing wrong.” Under state law, a patient can have 2.5 ounces of marijuana. If they do not have a specified caregiver, patients can keep 12 plants in an enclosed, locked facility, according to the law. Federal law requires housing complexes that receive subsidies to have lease provisions that allow them to evict tenants for using illegal drugs, such as marijuana. Still, they can use discretion, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “While there is a requirement that (public housing agencies) and landlords have lease provisions that give them the right to evict, the decision is theirs and theirs alone,” HUD spokeswoman Laura Feldman said in an e-mail. Sterner, who has a designated caregiver to grow marijuana for her, said she does not know where she will stay. She said she grew up in foster care and has no family to stay with locally. She hoped friends would take her and her two children in, and planned to spend Wednesday night with a neighbor, but she did not know where she would go next. Her boyfriend’s minivan was crammed with bags of her belongings. Anything that did not fit was given away, thrown away or packed into a friend’s storage unit, she said. Sterner, who attended Jackson Community College before the onset of her ailments and volunteers at the Jackson County Compassion Club, said pain prevents her from maintaining a full-time job, so the rent-free housing was essential. She said she offered to stop using medical marijuana and return to traditional methods of pain management if she could keep her apartment. “I’m trying not to lose my normal life,” she said. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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