Elderly Man, Evicted For Using Medical Marijuana, Allowed To Return Home

By Paul Gaita 12/19/18

 "I can tell you I really don't want to move back there," he said. "I was just kicked out by those lovely people there, in the cold." 

Senior man lighting up a joint with a gray lighter isolated on white background
His dear neighbors kicked him out over prescription marijuana. Ljupco | Dreamstime.com

A disabled New York senior citizen evicted from his apartment for using state-approved medical cannabis has returned home after his plight was made public in the media. John Flickner, 78, who is confined to a wheelchair, was evicted from his apartment on Dec. 4 after employees of the government-subsidized Niagara Towers in Niagara Falls, New York discovered his cannabis during an apartment inspection.

The Tennessee-based LHP Capital, which owns the building, enforced its strict drug policy and evicted Flickner from the apartment. But coverage in the New York press drew national attention, as well as a rebuke from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Administrator Lynne Patton, and spurred a reversal by the Niagara Towers landlord, who permitted Flickner to return to his apartment.

As reported by High Times and other sources, Flickner uses medical marijuana to treat pain from spinal injuries incurred in a 1968 skydiving accident. When Niagara Towers employees conducted an inspection of his apartment in June 2018, they found botanicals he had obtained in Canada, and notified the police. Since that form is not authorized in New York, law enforcement did not arrest Flickner but instead told him to get a New York State medical marijuana card, which he was able to obtain, along with a vaporizer and cannabis oil.

Despite his compliance with the police request, LHP decided to continue with the eviction process. Amy Styles, a spokesperson for LHP Capital, told The Buffalo News on Dec. 7 that the company "does not allow marijuana of any kind – liquid, smoking, whatever."

Federal law currently allows landlords of government-subsidized housing like Niagara Towers to exercise their own discretion in evicting residents whom they believe are using an illegal substance. Since marijuana of any kind remains a Schedule I drug, LHP was within its rights to remove Flickner. After a brief November 1 hearing, he was removed from the apartment on Dec. 4.

Flickner eventually found temporary shelter at local missions, and his plight was taken up by The Buffalo News and other newspapers. Word of his eviction spread to national media like High Times and was addressed in a Twitter post by Lynne Patton, who oversees HUD for Region II (New York and New Jersey). She admonished state and federal law regulations that allow such evictions, stating that they "need to catch up with medicinal marijuana usage and require private landlords to legally permit the same. Period."

On Dec. 10, The Buffalo News reported that LHP had allowed Flickner to return to Niagara Towers. In a statement, the company stated that they would "[rescind its] decision and [revisit its] policy. We've spoken with Mr. Flickner to let him know he is welcome to return to Niagara Towers. He was appreciative and will let us know in the next day or so."

Flickner's response, as noted in The Buffalo News, was decidedly less effusive. "I can tell you I really don't want to move back there," he said. "I was just kicked out by those lovely people there, in the cold." But he also acknowledged that the apartment was "a roof over my head." His attorney has requested that LHP submit in writing that they will allow him to use his medical marijuana device without interference.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.