A proposed class action claims the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and its secretary, Marcia Fudge, “irrationally” refuse housing to low-income residents legally using medical marijuana under state law.
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The 44-page lawsuit explains that the HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly referred to as “Section 8” housing, is the largest federal housing assistance program open to families who, among other eligibility requirements, qualify as being “very low” or “extremely low” income.
However, the case shares, otherwise eligible individuals who legally use medical marijuana under state law are denied admittance to the Section 8 Housing Program based on the drug’s status as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA).
Under the CSA, a Schedule I substance “(i) has a high potential for abuse, (ii) has no accepted medical use, and (iii) cannot be used safely even under medical supervision,” the filing relays.
But, since passing the CSA in 1970, the federal government has acknowledged that state-legal medical marijuana has a “zero likelihood” of fatal abuse, can offer effective medical benefits and can be safely used under medical supervision overseen by the states, the complaint states. This leaves the HUD with “no rational basis” for its “misapplied enforcement” of the CSA to discriminate against lawful medical marijuana users seeking housing, the case contends.
“Much has changed since the CSA was passed over 50 years ago,” the complaint says. “Today, 44 states plus the District of Columbia and certain U.S. Territories have legalized medical marijuana for medical use and 22 states have legalized it for adult use.”
In spite of the substance’s Schedule I classification, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that there has yet to be a single documented death from an overdose of marijuana, the case relays.
What’s more, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stated in 2015 that there is “preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms that marijuana can be helpful,” the filing says. Per the complaint, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has since approved several THC-based medications such as Epidiolex, a pharmaceutical-grade, marijuana-based cannabidiol (CBD) extract used to treat children suffering from Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes.
Additionally, since at least 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice has issued several written policies limiting its enforcement of federal drug laws concerning the production, sale and use of medical marijuana when done so in compliance with the state’s marijuana laws, the suit notes.
According to the filing, these memorandums highlight “the federal government’s conviction that marijuana can be used safely under medical supervision when that usage is overseen by state law enforcement and regulatory bodies.”
One of the plaintiffs, a low-income, 65-year-old veteran residing in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, says her application for the Section 8 Housing Program was denied in 2023 based solely on her voluntary disclosure that she lawfully uses medical marijuana under the state’s Medical Marijuana (MMJ) Act to treat her chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The plaintiff says that after Pennsylvania’s MMJ Act was passed in 2016, she switched from opioids to medical marijuana to help alleviate her ailments. As the case tells it, the HUD does not discriminate against opioid users due to the substance’s status as a Schedule II and/or Schedule III drug under the CSA, despite there being more than 45 opioid overdose deaths each day in the U.S.
“The result of this discrimination produces a bizarre result where someone using opioids may obtain federally assisted housing, but an individual choosing to escape the highly addictive character of opioids by using marijuana may not,” the suit stresses.
The lawsuit looks to represent any Section 8 Housing Program applicants who legally use or used medical marijuana under Pennsylvania law and were denied admission into the federal housing assistance program.
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