A double amputee who uses a wheelchair is being evicted from her Vancouver apartment at the end of the month for smoking medicinal pot.
“I’m really scared,” said Marilyn Holsten.
“I don’t want to be out on the streets. I don’t have anywhere to go.” Holsten, a 49-year-old diabetic who is also losing sight in her right eye, has lived for eight years in a building run by the non-profit Anavets Senior Citizens’ Housing Society.
“I get these terrible ghost pains,” she said.
“Doctors say there’s nothing that’ll work for it, so the only thing they suggested was to try pot.”
When she started smoking pot — about a gram a day — she gave a note from her doctor to the society that runs the building on East 8th Ave.
She got her first eviction notice in April 2008.
In order to stay, she signed a document promising that she would light up outdoors only.
“I was exhausted. I didn’t have time to fight,” said Holsten.
Last month, she received her second eviction notice after management said the smell of marijuana from her suite was wafting into the public areas.
Holsten said she tries to smoke outside, but admits she smokes in her room when she wakes up in pain in the middle of the night.
She does her best to diffuse the smell, she said — keeping her window open, using a fan and sprays.
Holsten’s physician, Dr. Fraser Norrie, supports her pot use.
“I agree with this medical treatment,” he wrote in a letter to the housing society.
“I would ask you to accept her medical needs, including her need to smoke marijuana.”
But the doctor’s note wasn’t enough for building management.
“While your doctor supports your decision to use marijuana, he has not prescribed it for medicinal purposes,” society administrator Mary McLeod wrote in a letter to Holsten dated April 24.
“Marijuana use is still against the law and … [as]part of your tenancy agreement, you agreed you would not participate in illegal activities.”
Anavets refused an interview request.
Holsten said she does not have the Health Canada authorization to possess pot.
She had considered applying for the authorization last year, but was daunted by the paperwork.
“I’ve had a lot of health stuff going on,” she said. “I was really trying, but it’s a lot of work.”
Jason Gratl, vice-president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said a person should not be evicted unless his or her behaviour unreasonably interferes with the landlord’s and neighbouring tenants’ rights.
“I doubt smoking medicinal marijuana constitutes an unreasonable interference sufficient to justify evicting a double amputee.”
Jay Leung, spokesman for the B.C. Compassion Club, said the right of the ill to have access to medicinal pot without fear of prosecution has been established as a constitutional right, “but this is not yet reflected in tenancy law.”
He called the federal marijuana access program a “half-hearted attempt,” with authorizations granted to less than 3,000 people across Canada in the past eight years.
The 5,000 members of the compassion club, which has been operating on Commercial Drive since 1997, are in a grey area, said Leung.
“Members are not protected legally, but morally they are, because society recognizes there is a medicinal purpose for their use.”
Holsten remains on the B.C. Housing wait list and said she has no objections to moving if she can get a wheelchair-accessible suite or an assisted-living unit elsewhere.
“It’s very stressful,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe I should feel lucky it’s summer. At least if I’m on the streets, it’s not winter yet.”
– Article from The Province.