People in Section 8 Housing Can't Use Medical Marijuana in Maine

While medical marijuana is legal in Maine, it is not legal at the federal level

A Maine couple is fighting to open a "cannabis club" where people in Section 8 housing can gather and smoke medical marijuana, which is illegal in their federally funded homes.

Shanon and Vince Gogan say customers at their Legal Peaces smoke shop in Lewiston want and need the safe space to smoke.

"These poor people — they choose this as their medication," said Shanon Gogan. "And they can't use it at their home."

While medical marijuana is legal in Maine, it is not legal at the federal level. Because Section 8 housing is federally funded, it is not legal to have or use marijuana in these units.

"A lot of the patients are worried about getting kicked out," said Gogan.

She and her husband have asked the city of Lewiston for a permit to open a lounge in the back of their smoke shop. People would have to show proof of ID and show their medical marijuana card in order to smoke in the cannabis club.

But the director of code enforcement, Gil Arsenault, denied the permit application.

"It's not a matter of [there being] a real need for this. That's not the issue," explained Arsenault.

He said smoking marijuana inside the retail space does not fall under the permitted uses for the property.

It's possible Arsenault could make an exception, if the Gogans can prove smoking pot is "an accessory to permitted use," meaning there are other smoke shops in the country that have spaces for medical marijuana use inside.

The Gogans have appealed Arsenault's decision. An appeals board is reviewing the decision and allowing public comment Wednesday night.

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