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Evicted tenant welcomed back as landlord revisits medical marijuana policy

A 78-year-old man who was evicted from Niagara Towers last week because he used medical marijuana has been told he's welcome back.

John Flickner has been in homeless shelters since his eviction last Tuesday from his federal government-subsidized apartment in Niagara Falls.

An official from LHP Capital, the Knoxville, Tenn., company that owns the 201-unit apartment building on Cedar Avenue, called him Sunday and offered to let him move back into his fourth-floor apartment. A company statement released Sunday did not say whether Flickner could use medical marijuana upon his return but said the company is "revisiting our policy for this evolving issue."

"I can tell you I really don't want to move back there," Flickner told The Buffalo News on Monday. "I was just kicked out by those lovely people there, in the cold," Flickner said. "I will ask them to try to find me another place if they can."

But after spending five of the last six nights in homeless shelters in the Falls, Flickner sounded like he was ready to move back anyway.

"It's a roof over my head," he said.

Kevin Quinn, an attorney with the Center for Elder Law and Justice in Buffalo who represented Flickner, said he thought Flickner would accept the offer to return to Niagara Towers as long as LHP made some promises in writing.

"I'm waiting to receive writing from ownership that they will accept him and allow him to use his medical marijuana device," Quinn said.

"I certainly don't want him to face more problems for using that in the unit," Quinn said. "I've spoken with John. He's confirmed he'd like to move back, but I want that confirmation from the ownership that they will permit him to use the device."

That would mean softening LHP's zero-tolerance policy on drugs, which was part of the lease Flickner signed two years ago.

"The eviction of Mr. Flickner is not a reflection of who we are or our resident service values," LHP said in a statement released Sunday.

"We are rescinding our decision and revisiting our policy for this evolving issue. We’ve spoken with Mr. Flickner to let him know he is welcome to return to Niagara Towers. He was appreciative and will let us know in the next day or so," according to the statement.

"The only reason they're taking me back is it looks really bad for the business, and that's because you exposed it," Flickner told a Buffalo News reporter, who was present during Flickner's eviction.

NYCLU, state blast eviction of Falls medical marijuana user

After his court-approved eviction, Flickner waited in the lobby of Niagara Towers for about five hours before Robyn L. Krueger, executive director of Community Missions of the Niagara Frontier, lined up a room for him in the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission in the Falls.

Flickner drove his motorized wheelchair about two blocks to reach that shelter. He spent Tuesday night there.

Wednesday night, a friend of his stayed with him in a room in the Niagara Falls EconoLodge, but the next day he moved into Community Missions' Niagara Falls shelter, where he remained Monday.

Flickner said he obtained medical marijuana through a doctor in Canada and brought it to his room in Niagara Towers, where he smoked it. The drug was discovered during a June 11 apartment inspection.

Niagara Towers management called Niagara Falls police, who confiscated the pot but did not arrest Flickner. Instead, they urged him to obtain a New York State medical marijuana card, which he did. An Erie County doctor prescribed a marijuana inhaler that creates no smoke, and he's been using that ever since.

Flickner has undergone four surgeries for spinal and hip fractures in the wake of a 1968 skydiving accident. He has five fused vertebrae and suffers muscle spasms that sometimes make it difficult for him to breathe. He said marijuana relaxes his muscles.

LHP went to court seeking to evict Flickner over the June 12 discovery, and after talks aimed at getting him to move out without being formally evicted fell through, a hearing was held Nov. 1. Judge Danielle M. Restaino later signed the eviction order.

LHP bans all forms of drugs in its 57 subsidized housing facilities nationwide, even in states such as New York where marijuana has been legalized for medicinal purposes.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has advised landlords and housing agencies that federal law still lists marijuana as illegal for all purposes. HUD's policy memos on the topic from 2011 and 2014 say landlords of subsidized housing may refuse to rent to anyone they believe is a drug user. For those tenants already renting, it's up to the company whether to evict tenants if they use drugs.

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