Mesa man claims he was evicted for using medical marijuana

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

MESA, Ariz. -- Vince Borinski says he generally smokes about one joint every day.

“My doctor would prefer me to eat it, not smoke it,” he said.
Borinski uses the drug because he has cancer and Hepatitis C. He is a medical marijuana card holder, and is legally authorized to use and cultivate medical marijuana in the state of Arizona.
“Everything I’m doing is 100 percent legal,” Borinski said.
Borinski was smoking and growing marijuana in his apartment at the Country Park Villas from April 2011 to October 2011, when he was evicted.
According to Borinski, the complex management had a copy of his medical marijuana card on file, but the reason for his eviction was cited as “illegal drug activity” on eviction records.
The management at Country Park Villas declined requests by 3TV for an interview or a statement. The manager referred 3TV to the attorney representing the complex. Calls to the attorney were not immediately returned.
A warning given to Borinski in July 2011 by the apartment complex refers to Sec. 21 USC 801, the federal law dealing with controlled substances.
The warning reads in part:
“Despite Arizona’s new law, the federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA) categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance.”
The warning goes on to say:
“The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has sent out a memorandum that specifically states the use of marijuana for medical purposes violates federal law and that federal and state nondiscrimination laws do not require landlords to accommodate requests by current or prospective residents with disabilities to use medical marijuana.”
An eviction notice from the apartment to Borinski from October 2011 states the reason for eviction as “illegal drug-related activity.”
Jeffery Kaufman, a Scottsdale attorney who practices medical marijuana law is not associated with Borinski or his case, but said Borinski is hardly alone.
“I get calls about this every week,” Kaufman said.
According to Kaufman, under Arizona law a landlord cannot evict a person based on their status as a medical marijuana patient.
“A.R.S. 36-2813 clearly states that a landlord cannot discriminate against or penalize anyone who has a medical marijuana card,” said Kaufman, referring to an Arizona statute that prohibits housing discrimination based on medical marijuana use.
At the intersection of federal and state laws governing medical marijuana, Kaufman said federal law does not necessarily win out.
Kaufman points to his case, White Mountain Health Center v. County of Maricopa. A superior court judge ruled in September that Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act is not void under federal law. The case is pending appeal by the county.
According to Kaufman, this means that only federally-subsidized housing complexes can discriminate against medical marijuana patients.
“Card holders have every right to use marijuana in their apartment or home in Arizona,” Kaufman said.
Borinski has already left the Country Park Villas. He is now living in temporary housing, and said he cannot rent another apartment because of the eviction notice on his record.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said. “It isn’t fair.”