Days after being evicted from his apartment—and then invited to return—for his legal possession and consumption of medical cannabis oil, John Flickner says his healthcare provider has suddenly dropped him from his Medicaid/Medicare program. Without access to doctors and transportation to healthcare facilities, the 78-year-old man who was just last week without a home is wondering what could possibly befall him next.
Senior Healthcare Provider Dropped 78-Year-Old Man Over His NY-Legal Medical Cannabis Use
Last week, High Times covered the story of John Flickner, an elderly gentleman living in a federally-assisted apartment complex in Niagara Falls, NY. During a June inspection of his apartment, staff discovered botanical cannabis Flickner used to treat his worsening back pain from a 50-year-old skydiving injury. At the time, Flickner was not a licensed medical cannabis patient in New York. But after the discovery of his unlicensed medication, Flickner promptly obtained a physician’s recommendation and his medical cannabis permit.
However, Flickner’s status as a legal medical cannabis patient in New York didn’t save him from eviction. Backing his Niagara Towers landlord’s decision to kick him out of his home, the firm that owns his HUD-subsidized building (and three others like it in the area) resorted to a 1998 Clinton-era law barring cannabis users from accessing federal housing assistance, to argue that Flickner violated the terms of his lease.
Flickner took his case to court, where a judge ultimately upheld the eviction order. But after national media attention prompted outrage over Flickner’s predicament, LHP Capital Properties reversed course and invited Flickner back into his apartment. It even caused a regional Trump-appointed HUD official to tweet about the need for a resolution of conflicts between state and federal law on medical cannabis. Flickner, who relies on a wheelchair, had spent the week living in a nearby homeless shelter and staying with an elderly friend in a motel room.
Attorney for Complete Senior Care Says Provider Had No Choice But to Drop John Flickner
Complete Senior Care is a Medicare and Medicaid service provider for elderly patients in the Niagara Falls area. And as is the case for many federally-subsidized social programs, guidelines strictly prohibit any and all cannabis-related activity. In the case of federal guidelines from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, healthcare providers cannot prescribe or allow access to or work with patients who use medical cannabis treatments. But New York has legalized medical cannabis and even implemented a historic expansion that qualifies cannabis as an opioid alternative. Yet Complete Senior Care attorney Jerry Solomon told the AP that providing care to a medical cannabis patient like Flickner “would jeopardize being able to service all the other patients they have.”
What Solomon means is that violating federal guidelines could put Complete Senior Care’s federal funding at risk. And therefore, the argument goes, hinder it from providing healthcare services. The argument is the same one university administrators make to justify banning medical cannabis on campus. But there isn’t any evidence showing that federal law enforcement or other agencies are acting on the letter of the law in states that have authorized medical cannabis use. No school or federally-assisted housing or healthcare provider has lost federal funding over allowing those they serve to access their medication.
Fearing that possibility, however, property companies and healthcare providers are choosing to evict elderly patients from their homes and drop them from their programs. John Flickner is one of likely thousands of seniors across the country facing such extreme consequences for legally obtaining physician-recommended medication.