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Church Hill House Evicts Pot Banger for Smoking Pot

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What if David fought Goliath only to have the International Slingshot Board bust him for doping?

A similar scenario unfolded last week in Richmond General District Court when a judge evicted Esau Miller from the senior living facility he's lambasted for years as unsafe.

Officials from Church Hill House, where Miller lives, persuaded the judge to evict Miller after a security guard caught him in his apartment smoking marijuana — a drug Miller says relieves pain from the glaucoma that's rendered him blind.

One of the residents living in Miller's East End building was strangled to death in 2006. A second senior was killed later that year, but Miller had been raising a ruckus about safety before the first murder. His complaints caught the attention of Congressman Bobby Scott, Mayor-elect Dwight C. Jones and City Councilwoman Delores McQuinn. Councilman Marty Jewell testified at last week's hearing.

Some changes have been made to the security system since the killings, but the major changes have been with the building's management. A new property manager took over in February, and Miller was caught smoking pot by a new security guard making the rounds on his first day.

Miller carries a note in his wallet from his opthamologist. “According to Mr. Miller's reports to me,” it states, “he has found marijuana to be beneficial in controlling his intra-ocular pressure along with medications that have been prescribed.”

Miller says the building management has the note on file. Management officials, however, decline to confirm that.

The note is dated April 16, 2002, causing Miller to question why, if officials knew he was using marijuana for medicinal purposes, they are getting around to evicting him now. The bust amounts to retaliation, he argues.

Megan Rahman, the attorney who represented Church Hill House, argued that the letter was not a prescription, which would be illegal if it were, and the federal government, which partly subsidizes Miller's rent, has a zero-tolerance policy on drug use.

Judge B.J. Gaden ultimately sided with the management, although Miller will not have to move out unless he loses on appeal, a lengthy process that could take as long as a year.

“I have a lot of respect for people who are thorns in the sides of people while trying to accomplish good things,” Gaden told the court. “I note the irony here that Mr. Miller, who's been complaining for years about criminal activity on the premises, has now been implicated in criminal activity himself.”

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