Terminally Ill Medical Marijuana Patient Should Not Be Evicted, ACLU Tells Property Management Company

December 22, 2009

Elk Rapids, Mich. – In a letter today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan came to the aid of a terminally ill woman who is being evicted from her apartment for legally using medical marijuana to treat the painful symptoms of her advanced brain cancer. The ACLU wrote the letter on behalf of Lori Montroy, 49, a resident of Elk Rapids who is facing eviction by the Gardner Group of Michigan, the company that manages her apartment complex.

“No one deserves to be put out in the cold for legally treating the crippling pain, nausea and weakness caused by brain cancer,” said Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan Staff Attorney. “We believe that the landlord’s decision was not motivated by malice but rather a misperception of the law. We are confident that when the management learns that it is not required to evict patients who comply with Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Law, Ms. Montroy will be able to celebrate Christmas in her home without the stress of eviction.”

Montroy has a Grade 4 astrocytoma, the most serious and deadly kind of brain cancer. As a result of her illness, she suffers from excruciating pain, depression, and nausea. Montroy's doctor has certified that she would benefit from the use of medical marijuana.

In November 2008, voters in Michigan overwhelmingly approved the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which legalizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes. In compliance with the state law, Montroy received written certification from her doctor and then applied for a medical marijuana registry identification card from the Michigan Department of Community Health, which she received in May 2009.

After she received her card, Montroy grew four marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked closet as required by state law. During a random search of her apartment in October, Montroy told the property manager that she was growing medical marijuana and presented the property manager with her registry card. After this incident, Montroy was served with a "Notice to Quit / Termination of Tenancy" form, alleging that she violated federal law regarding controlled substances and will be evicted if she does not leave her apartment by January 1, 2010.

“I still can’t believe this has happened to me. The stress of being kicked out with no place to go is too much for me to bear,” said Montroy. “Needing medical marijuana, or any other medication, isn’t a shameful thing. This law was put in place to help people like me who are sick and are struggling to cope with the pain.”

Although possession and use of marijuana remains technically illegal under federal law, it is the official policy of the U.S. government not to prosecute medical marijuana patients who are in compliance with state drug laws. Despite receiving loan assistance from the federal government, landlords of federally assisted housing are not required to evict tenants who violate federal drug laws. As the ACLU explained in its letter, the Gardner Group has full discretion under federal law to allow Montroy to stay in her home.

“Ms. Montroy is already engaged in a daily battle to stay alive,” the ACLU wrote. “She is no danger to herself, her neighbors, or her community... And yet, in the midst of this holiday season, Ms. Montroy faces eviction from her apartment. You have the ability, and the moral obligation, to prevent such a miscarriage of justice from taking place.”

The letter to the Gardner Group of Michigan was signed by Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg and ACLU of Michigan Northwestern Branch Lawyers Committee Chair Steve Morse.

To read the letter, click here.

To read more about medical marijuana in Michigan, click here.

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