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Residents of Public Housing Face Eviction For Legal Cannabis Use

The upcoming legalization of cannabis in Illinois brings the concern of public housing back to our attention. As seen in other states, residents of public housing can be evicted for using cannabis because public housing program abides by federal rather than state law.

Illinois legalizes recreational cannabis on January 1 of 2020, but residents of units managed or subsidized by the Chicago Housing Authority and other public housing divisions still can face eviction for using cannabis in their homes. A notice stating that the CHA could end all housing assistance if any tenant, household member, or guest was found using or possessing marijuana for medical or recreational purposes was sent to all housing voucher recipients in the Chicago region at the end of October.

A statement from the Chicago Housing Authority states:

“While federal law prohibits marijuana use and possession in federally subsidized housing, the CHA is working to educate and inform residents so they understand all applicable laws related to cannabis and federally-funded housing. The CHA will work with the City of Chicago as it develops rules and regulations in accordance with existing state and federal laws in order to ensure a safe and responsible implementation of legalized cannabis in Chicago on January 1, 2020.”

Many discussions surrounding the legalization of cannabis in a region address the monetary aspects of the legalization, potential for jobs, and expungement of cannabis relate charges, but fail to address how the legalization movement effects housing.

Residents in public housing have been effected by this legality across the country. In New York, legal medical cannabis use is not permitted in certain public housing and residents are being denied properties or evicted, simply for possessing a medical card. Washington D.C. claims that no residents have been evicted for cannabis use since legalization, but this is a true exception to what has been seen in other states.

The Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act has been proposed to permit the use of marijuana in housing under the federal public housing system in legal states. This bill was introduced by Eleanor Holmes Norton, a democrat from Washington D.C. in April of 2019. A previous version of the act was introduced in 2018, but it was never voted on. Support of this amendment has been shown from HUD officials, including the New York / New Jersey region.

“Individuals living in federally funded housing should not fear eviction simply for treating their medical conditions or for seeking a substance legal in their state…With so many states improving their laws, this issue should have broad bipartisan appeal because it protects states’ rights” -Eleanor Holmes Norton, D, D.C.