Elderly man evicted from public housing for medical marijuana could also lose his health care

Seventy-eight-year-old Niagara Falls resident John Flickner was evicted from federally subsidized housing, and now his healthcare is in jeopardy. After Flickner was recently evicted, his story gained national attention, prompting the subsidized housing provider to review their policy and welcome him back. Tennessee-based LHP Capital, Inc., issued a statement, saying the eviction was "not a reflection of who we are or our resident service values."

"We are rescinding our decision and revisiting our policy for this evolving issue," the statement said. "We’ve spoken with Mr. Flickner to let him know he is welcome to return to Niagara Towers."

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The company had previously evicted him because they had "a zero-tolerance (policy) and he had marijuana in his apartment and at that time he did not have medical marijuana" according to an attorney. Flickner did not have a New York medical marijuana card at the time and had acquired the bud from Canada. He subsequently got an in-state medical marijuana prescription but was evicted anyway. "I didn't know about getting the card. I just knew it was legal," Flickner told the Associated Press. "I wasn't hiding anything." Police did not press charges.

In New York, medical marijuana is legal, but it is still illegal on the federal level, and the feds give public housing providers discretion on whether to allow residents to have medical marijuana in their buildings. Flickner has not yet decided whether to return.

Lynne Patton, an administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, tweeted "State (and) federal law needs to catch up with medicinal marijuana usage (and) require private landlords to legally permit the same. Period.” The agency will be working with Flickner "to place him in permanent housing again, as anyone else in his boat."

However, as the story gained national attention, the program that manages Flickner’s medical care, Complete Senior Care, got wind of the news story and suddenly dropped him. "The federal government has stepped in again and squashed it," said Flickner.

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An attorney for the Federally-funded medical program said privacy laws prevented him from discussing individual cases, but that a medical marijuana prescription could cause an issue for the program.

"Federal guidelines from (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) ban them from prescribing that or allowing access or having anything to do with anyone having medical marijuana," attorney Jerry Solomon said. "To do otherwise would jeopardize being able to service all the other patients that they have." Solomon said because of its Federal funding, Complete Medical Care does not have the option to allow patients to use medical marijuana.

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