Thursday | November 23, 2017
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Resident who uses medical marijuana upset about public housing complex’s smoking ban

A county public housing project is about to become the first on the island to ban smoking, and that’s causing problems for one resident, who’s considering a lawsuit if he’s barred from smoking medical marijuana in his home.

Lanric Hyland, 78, who uses a walker, has asked the county for a “reasonable accommodation” to allow him to continue to smoke his medicine in his unit, despite a new policy taking effect June 1 that makes the building and grounds of the Ainakea Senior Residences in Kapaau smoke-free.

“It’s ludicrous,” Hyland said. “I have a constitutional right to privacy in my own home.”

He said the facility’s managers have been unsympathetic, issuing a notice of the new policy without taking residents’ needs into consideration and telling him he needs to go to the curb to smoke his cannabis. He said that’s about 100 yards — the length of a football field — from his apartment, quite a trek with his walker.

The 30-unit low-income senior apartment complex is managed by Hawaii Affordable Properties Inc. Detailed phone messages left Monday and Tuesday were not responded to by Big Island staff or corporate headquarters in Honolulu by press time Tuesday.

Hawaii County Housing Administrator Neil Gyotoku referred questions to the Office of Corporation Counsel, where Deputy Corporation Counsel Amy Self said the complex could lose federal Housing and Urban Development funding because marijuana use, even by users registered by the state for medical purposes, is against federal law.

Hyland disputes that contention, saying HUD has sent out memos giving public housing agencies discretion in determining on a case-by-case basis whether existing residents can use medical marijuana. Hyland also cited a recent federal appeals case in Colorado supporting state marijuana laws over the more restrictive federal laws.

“So while the whole federal government is struggling to be rational about the changing public attitude about cannabis throughout the United States, (Hawaii Affordable Properties staff) are struggling to make medically distraught kupuna homeless after kicking them out of their homes for legally using cannabis to relieve their pain and other medical conditions,” Hyland said in an email to three members of the County Council, and copied to West Hawaii Today.

A state law enacted in 2015 tried to clarify rights of medical marijuana users by stating “no landlord shall refuse to lease property to or otherwise penalize a person solely for the person’s status as a qualifying patient or primary caregiver in the medical marijuana program under this part, unless failing to do so would cause the … landlord to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law or regulation.”

Carl Bergquist, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, emphasized that those unclear about their rights should contact an attorney.

“There is a bit of a gray area regarding the requirement to make ‘reasonable accommodations’ for people with disabilities,” Bergquist said in an emailed response to questions from West Hawaii Today. “Prohibiting a bedridden cancer patient, who is registered for medical cannabis, from ingesting cannabis, could lead to a lawsuit. But as far as I know, the state of Hawaii has yet to stand up for patients, stating that this is a reasonable accommodation. Until it does, no landlord can be obliged to make this type of accommodation.”

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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