Cease v. Hous. Auth. of Indiana Co.

In 2017, Cease applied for Section 8 housing, disclosing that she used medical marijuana and including a copy of her Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Identification Card. The Indiana Co. Housing Authority (“Authority”) denied her application because the federal government considers marijuana to be an illegal substance. She appealed, and the trial court affirmed the Authority. She then appealed to the Commonwealth Court. In Cease v. Hous. Auth. of Indiana Co., first, the Court held that Cease was neither an existing Section 8 participant nor a participant in any federally subsidized housing program administered by the Authority at the time of her Section 8 application. Consequently, the Authority properly treated her as a new applicant to the Section 8 program, such that the screening provision in Section 13661 of the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act (QHWRA) applied. Upon its analysis of Section 13661, the Court found the phrase “illegally using a controlled substance” to be ambiguous because, in this case, use of the controlled substance was prohibited by the federal government but permitted under state law. Moreover, the pertinent provisions of QHWRA are based on the obsolete and scientifically flawed premise that marijuana “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and that “there is a lack of accepted safety for use of marijuana under medical supervision”. Thus, the Court remanded to the trial court with directions to remand to the Authority to “do what QHWRA mandates and establish fair and reasonable standards for determining in what circumstances admission to Section 8 housing is prohibited for an applicant, who is legally using medical marijuana under state law, and to apply those standards with respect to Cease’s individual circumstances when determining her eligibility”.

Mary-Cease