Resident Not Entitled to Medical Marijuana as Reasonable Accommodation
Facts: A Section 8 resident was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her physician prescribed medicinal marijuana to help with her symptoms, and she obtained a medical marijuana card issued by the State of Michigan pursuant to the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.
The resident requested, as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), that she be allowed to use marijuana in her unit. The management company asked to court to declare that the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) preempts the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) and that the request to use marijuana as an accommodation under the Fair Housing Act is not reasonable.
Ruling: A Michigan district court ruled that the CSA preempts the MMMA, and that the FHA doesn’t require the management company to grant the resident a reasonable accommodation to use medical marijuana in its federally assisted housing sites.
Reasoning: The court found a conflict between the federal controlled substances law and Michigan's medical marijuana law. It found that it’s impossible for someone to ingest marijuana, "medical" or otherwise, without violating the CSA. The CSA contains no provision allowing for the "medical" use of marijuana. As a Schedule I drug, Congress deems marijuana to have no medically acceptable uses. Thus, the court found that the CSA and the MMMA conflict with one another. And because a state law is "without effect" when it conflicts with federal law, the court ruled that the CSA preempts the MMMA.
In addition, the court decided that allowing medical marijuana use would amount to a fundamental alteration in the nature of the site’s operations and, thus, it couldn’t be a reasonable accommodation. Requiring the management company to grant the resident a reasonable accommodation to use marijuana would be to require the management company to violate federal law. And such a requirement would fundamentally alter the nature of the management company's operation by thwarting Congress's mission to provide drug-free federally assisted housing.
Considering Congress's clear policy initiative behind its Section 8 federally assisted housing program, and giving deference to HUD's interpretation of the FHA, the court found that the resident wasn’t entitled to a reasonable accommodation for medical marijuana use under the FHA.
- Forest City Residential Management, Inc. v. Beasley, December 2014