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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

87-Year-Old Evicted for Using Legal Weed

There are so many things wrong with what has happened to Lea Olivier that it's going to take some unpacking to understand it all. Before I get to that, let me stack up two or three presumptions about where I'm coming from.

First, the law is the law. Right? We live in a country of laws and we don't get to pick which ones we obey. But what if one law conflicts with its opposite? What happens then?

Second, moving from one home to another is hard. Physically hard. I know. I've done it twice in the past eight years and I'll think for a long time before I do it again because unless you are financially able to pay someone to do all the packing, it is exhausting.

I was 69 last time I did all myself. Lea Olivier is 18 years older than that. Here's what's happened to her.

Olivier has a physician-approved medical marijuana card. She smokes the drug to help control arthritis pain but since Amendment 64 passed in Colorado, she doesn't really need the card because it is legal now for adults to purchase and use cannabis there.

Well, it's legal unless you live in federally subsidized housing and because Olivier does, that means the federal government can bigfoot Colorado law and Ms. Olivier. She isn't the first, explains reporter Jim Mimiaga in the Cortez Journal, only

”...the latest victim. She has lived there for five years but says she has been ordered to vacate her rent-subsidized apartment on Central Avenue for allegedly violating the illegal-substances policy.

“'A compliance officer said they smelled pot coming from my residence,' she says. 'I don’t think it was even me...'

“Olivier, who lives alone, is now faced with finding alternative housing, but is concerned she cannot afford it on her fixed Social Security income.”

Smelling pot coming from a residence seems like flimsy evidence for eviction but federally subsidized renters are also subject to “annual inspections of apartments,” according to the newspaper.

[Imagine! Federal authorities can search your apartment once a year for drugs just because it is subsidized. I had no idea that happens. Apparently if you are poor, you are automatically suspected of being a drug user.]

And the federal rules about pot smoking in these apartments are a farce:

Olivier said property managers instruct residents to leave the boundaries of the apartment complex if they want to consume marijuana...

“'They told us to go beyond a certain gate, or leave in our car and go somewhere else, but we cannot keep anything in our car if it is parked on their property,' Olivier said. 'It is ridiculous...'”

Terri Wheeler, who is the executive director of Housing Authority of Montezuma County in Colorado, admits there is a big problem with conflicting marijuana laws:

“There is an appeal process for residents who are found to be violating drug laws. While regulations are strictly enforced, they are administered with a practical approach based on circumstances.

“'We’re not cold about it, warnings have been given for marijuana...' Wheeler said. 'We know there are valid medical uses for marijuana, but we have to comply with HUD regulations or we lose our subsidies for people who need housing assistance.'”

How about a “practical approach based on circumstances” of legal use and, in this case, age?

Are we sure that we want to be throwing an 87-year-old elder out of her home because she smokes a doobie or two? Even if the federal government doesn't legally approve, her state does.

I am fully aware that the law is not always fairly enforced but doesn't it seem egregiously awful that zillionaire criminal bankers, for example, walk free after impoverishing millions of Americans (many elders included) while the same government is now throwing an old woman out of her home?

Throwing her out for something so minor that it is invisible compared to what those rich bankers did?

Lea Olivier sounds like a woman who is accustomed to looking out for herself:

“I’ll live in a tent, or my car if I have to,” she said. “I’ve got 10 days to move, but when I get knocked down I get back up.”

She shouldn't be forced to do that.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Trudi Kappel: The Psychology of Paint


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

This looks like a case that screams for "prosecutorial discretion" -- a power that the DOJ certainly has. Someone in the management of that housing project has it in for that women. Imagine she's feisty -- good for her!

Justice is blind, deaf and dumb. Or as another wag so succinctly put it, "Justice? Hell, there ain't no justice."

As it happens, we were discussing this very issue at our monthly resident's council meeting today. It appears that N.Y, State will soon be going the way of other states and legalize medical marijuana. And, while the majority of the residents are all for it, It remains to be seen whether the maangement of our facilty will permit it. They already ban any alcoholic beverages here, I can just imagine what they would do if somebody wanted to smoke a joint. Our position is, if it's legally prescribed by a physician, who has the right to refuse us its use.

I agree with janinsanfran. The housing authority involved is subject to the laws around eviction, which means that there was a judge who, with a lack of compassion, decided against Ms. Olivier, but that's now a moot point. I do wonder what might be happening with the legal aid programs in the area in incidents such as this. Since they're mostly funded by the feds, they may be reluctant to take it on. Someone needs to do a Kickstarter or other crowdfunder campaign to help this woman get private housing and beyond the tentacles of public housing. I would donate. These double binds that have been set up are just absurd, especially when an outcome like this occurs for an elderly or disabled person who is hurting no one.

One simple little act by Congress to lift federal penalties where states permit pot use would take care of this kind of nonsense. Do we think Congress will do anything that just and useful? Hah.

Where, oh where, is common sense?! There are so many instances these days in which a little plain old common sense could make all the difference. . .

Gazillionaire bankers can afford the best attorneys, so of course the law doesn't apply to them. It's possible that the USA may still be a democracy for some people some of the time, but "justice" can be bought--even more easily now than in the past since the Supreme Court declared that there's no difference between a corporation and a person!

As far as I'm concerned, common sense left the building when Bush the Younger got elected, and it must have gotten lost because I haven't seen it since.

This is the sort of situation that comes up because we're in a transition in the US. Here in Washington state there are all sorts of problems because medical marijuana was legalized here a long time before recreational marijuana was.

The two laws are incompatible and both conflict with federal law. People who work for certain federal agencies are still subject to random drug testing and may lose their jobs if marijuana is detected.

Some states maintain that there's no such thing as medical marijuana, despite evidence presented in Dr. Sanjay Gupta's extraordinary documentary.

The long-term answer is that the federal government delists marijuana, but meanwhile it makes sense to publicize the burdens and possible penalties on individuals caught in the middle. And to raise money or do whatever it takes to help Ms. Oliver.

This is a sad state of affairs. I sure hope there is a good attorney who will take this case, or make a class action suit out of this. It could lead to the downfall of that horrible Federal law and force them to de-list pot! It is about time we had a good law suit brought to challenge this sort of egregious wrong!

If she lived in San Diego County, I'd offer her my spare bedroom. I sure hope someone in Montezuma County, CO, will do that for this poor, ill-used Elder!

Thumbs up to Elizabeth Rogers' comment!

If you are poor in this country young or old, there is no justice. We must fill up those private for profit prisons.

Cathy Johnson's last sentence is right on.

What a sad state of affairs. This post and all comments are so good. I keep wondering what more I can do? I think I need to write again to the President, my elected representatives and maybe Mr. Holder as well.

(Kudos to you too Ronni for removing that hateful comment I saw very early this morning. I'm reading early and have little time to comment because I've been working! New work at age 68 thanks to you and Rick Gillis.)

I live in Colorado and was under the impression that the federal government had unofficially agreed to not enforce its anti-marijuana laws here while we serve as sort of a testing ground for legal marijuana. Surely, then, this would be one example of where federal law is suspended/not enforced. It's a shame she has neither the time, nor probably the funds, to get a lawyer and fight the eviction. Sounds to me like some officious bureaucrats didn't get the word ("do not enforce") on this, or chose to ignore it.

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