New York Senate Passes Bill Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients From Eviction

Lawmakers are fighting for the rights of medical cannabis patients.
New York Senate Passes Bill Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients From Eviction

The New York State Senate approved a bill on Tuesday that would grant housing protections for registered medical marijuana patients. The measure, S.4117, “prohibits the eviction of tenants for using medical marijuana for a certified medical use,” according to a summary of the bill.

S.4117 was originally introduced in the New York State Senate by Democratic Sen. Anna Kaplan in February 2019. The bill was approved by the Senate in April of that year and referred to the State Assembly, where it died in January 2020.

That sent the measure back to the Senate, where it was passed again by the chamber this week by a vote of 58 to 2. The bill has been referred again to the State Assembly, where it has been assigned to the Housing Committee for consideration as A.7764.

“This legislation would seek to ensure that tenants lawfully using medical marihuana are protected from eviction proceedings,” a memo accompanying the Assembly version of the legislation cites as justification for its passage.

Elderly Patient Evicted

The legislative memo goes on to relate the story of a 78-year-old man from Niagara Falls who was evicted from his residence because he used medical marijuana for pain management. The eviction was made on the grounds that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “prohibits and has a strict policy of allowing and evicting individuals who use marihuana.”

However, New York state law allows an individual with a qualifying medical condition to use medical marijuana, with safeguards in place to ensure that cannabis is used lawfully and for medical purposes only. 

“Federal law has not caught up with this and places medical users in possible jeopardy,” the memo explains.

The case was then reviewed by a regional housing administrator, who wrote that “state (and) federal law needs to catch up with medicinal marihuana usage (and) require private landlords to legally permit the same,” a statement which prompted the company that evicted the elderly man to reverse its decision.

Oregon Has Similar Law

Similar legislation to protect medical marijuana patients in Oregon from housing discrimination for their cannabis use or cannabis-related convictions was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown in June of last year. Under that measure, landlords are prohibited from taking into consideration an applicant’s “status as a medical marijuana patient” or if they have a “conviction based solely on the use or possession of marijuana.”

Carly Wolf, the state policies coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said at the time that the new law, which went into effect on January 1 of this year, will prevent qualified medical marijuana patients from having to make a gut-wrenching decision.

“Oftentimes patients are forced to choose between their health and well-being and suitable housing,” said Wolf. “No human being should have to make that choice. And starting next year in Oregon, no patient will have to. It’s about time that patients and consumers are no longer arbitrarily discriminated against for being compliant with state law.”

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