The Herald reported (Aug. 11) that an 87-year-old is being evicted for possession and use of a controlled substance. That the $50 billion behemoth in Washington would concern itself with a little old lady smoking pot in Dolores is completely ludicrous. The substance that needs to be controlled here isn’t marijuana – it is stubborn, primitive and paternalistic bureaucracy.
Two years ago, Colorado voters declared marijuana legal for people 21 years or older. Even if she was born in a leap year, Lea Olivier appears to meet this criterion. In August 2013, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Cole outlined federal priorities for marijuana enforcement. Federal priorities include: preventing distribution to minors; keeping money away from criminal enterprises; limiting interstate trafficking; preventing violence; and keeping marijuana off public lands. The DEA specifically acknowledged that it is not an “efficient use” of federal resources to focus law enforcement on sick people. Olivier does not appear to be hindering any of these priorities. So, where’s the problem?
The problem appears to stem from HUD’s reliance on a 1999 memo, authored by the then general counsel for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, under President Bill Clinton. He wrote that housing authorities and owners must establish standards that “require denial of admission to households with a member ... (that uses) a controlled substance.”
Federal officials have repeatedly demonstrated ineptitude when it comes to the reality that in Colorado and Washington state marijuana is legal. It is high time (pun intended) for HUD officials to recognize new realities, and defer to state efforts to oversee and manage marijuana effectively. Indeed, this is precisely what was requested by senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet in a July 28 letter to the White House and Attorney General Eric Holder. At minimum, their timing seems fortuitous.