#TBT: Evicted for Medical Marijuana, 2010

November 06, 2014

With a history of civil liberties stretching back almost a century, the ACLU has got plenty of amazing cases for #TBT. Every Thursday, we'll be sharing updates on cases pulled from our archives of work in Michigan and beyond.

This week, laws regarding marijuana use across the country are back in the news. While some view this as an opportunity to make jokes about the munchies, laws like these have a real impact on the everyday lives of men and women. 

Let's take a look at a 2010 case that shows how marijuana policy affected one woman and her family. 

Evicted for Following the Law

October 20, 2010

My heart was racing all morning. Would I be able to keep my cool? I did my best to stay calm by focusing on what had to be done before the afternoon.

I was counting down the hours until 1:30 p.m., the time scheduled for our client Jeanette Keillor’s hearing at before an administrative law judge. 

Jeanette is a registered patient under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (“MMMA”), which allows her to treat her debilitating medical condition, fibromyalgia, with marijuana as long as she does so within the very narrow bounds of the Act. 

Earlier this year, Jeanette was sent a notice of termination public housing benefits because of her legal, therapeutic use of marijuana. Jeanette requested a hearing on the termination – she had been complying with state law after all – and we were there to help her.

Under the MMMA, individuals with “debilitating medical conditions” get a letter from their physician certifying that they have in fact been diagnosed with such a condition and then send that letter with an application to the Michigan Department of Community Health. 

Once registered, a qualifying medical marijuana patient “shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner… for the medical use of marihuana in accordance with this act." The ACLU believes that Jeanette should not be punished in any way for being a medical marijuana patient, including by having her housing benefits terminated.

When I met with Jeanette that afternoon, I was nervous. After all, this hearing would be my first since graduating from law school.

I was nervous, that is, until I met Jeanette. If she could gather the strength to drive from Genesee County to appear before an Administrative Law Judge who may decide whether she gets to stay in the house where she raised her daughters and where she has lived for almost 2 decades, I would be strong too. I submitted my brief and made my arguments on Jeanette’s behalf. 

The judge is now taking our presentation under consideration and will issue a decision within 30 days. I hope justice falls on Jeanette’s side, and on the side of all other lawful, registered medical marijuana patients in the state of Michigan who find relief in the MMMA.

Update: The judge agreed with Zainab & the ACLU of Michigan, ruling that Jeanette should stay in her home.

By Zainab Akbar, ACLU of Michigan legal fellow