HUD pot rule draws disdain

AHA member calls directive against medical marijuana simply ‘stupid’

Over the years, Altoona Housing Authority member Scott Brown has frequently demonstrated impatience when initiatives of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development venture beyond what he regards as common sense.

The latest directive of the agency that funds most of the authority’s operations is simply “stupid,” Brown said at a meeting Wednesday.

The department is asking authorities to adopt policies on medical marijuana, affirming that any use of the drug on their properties remains illegal, regardless of state laws, like those in Pennsylvania, which has legalized its medicinal use.

“Under general theory, federal law preempts state law,” said authority solicitor Bill Haberstroh. “It’s fairly safe for the authority to say (that residents) can’t use marijuana at all.”

The directive is stupid because it’s premature, according to Brown.

It’s premature because as Haberstroh himself explained, there are multiple lawsuits that originated in states that legalized the drug before Pennsylvania that still haven’t been resolved, Brown said.

“Let them work out the lawsuits,” Brown said. “This ain’t the time (to adopt a policy).”

A policy complying with the HUD request would just make it clear to authority residents that they can’t do what Pennsylvania otherwise says they can, according to authority officials.

What’s truly stupid is Pennsylvania legalizing medicinal marijuana while the drug in all forms remains illegal in federal law, Haberstroh said.

“They (Pennsylvania) pass this damn legislation and put you in the middle,” he said.

The directive against the use of medicinal marijuana in HUD-funded projects for those who qualify because of illness remains in place despite another initiative that would seem to run counter to it: the general prohibition against policies with “disparate impact” — seemingly neutral, but nevertheless discriminating against a protected class of people, Haberstroh said.

The HUD directive — which Brown interprets as the department “sticking its nose” into the issue of a drug of questionable legality — seems even more inappropriate, given that HUD has recently imposed a ban on smoking in authority projects nationwide, despite that being otherwise legal, Brown said.

In Pennsylvania’s case, the marijuana issue doesn’t involve smoking, as the new law doesn’t permit medical marijuana to be used in that form, authority member Mitch Cooper pointed out.

The authority’s policy on medicinal marijuana will need to be drawn up after Executive Director Cheryl Johns consults with Haberstroh, officials said.

Marijuana is likely to be removed as a Schedule 1 drug from the federal list before long, Haberstroh predicted.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.


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