New Federal Legislation Would Allow Cannabis Use in Public Housing
The new bill aims to protect the rights of public housing residents living in states with legal weed. If passed, the legislation would remove the threat of eviction for cannabis users.
Published on June 20, 2018

A new bill introduced by Washington D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes would lift the federal government's outright ban on cannabis in public housing facilities, allowing millions of Americans living in government-assisted housing across the legal weed landscape to experience the same freedom as homeowners.

According to Marijuana Moment, Rep. Holmes announced the new piece of federal legislation in her home district on Tuesday, alongside members of the cannabis advocacy group DCMJ and Sondra Battle, a D.C. resident who relies on medical marijuana to treat her fibromyalgia, but is restricted from doing so in her government-assisted home.

"Residents like Sondra should not fear eviction from federally-assisted housing simply for using cannabis to treat their medical conditions," Rep. Holmes wrote in a press release announcing the legislation. "Our bill recognized today's realities and proven needs. Individuals who live in states where medical and/or recreational marijuana is legal, but live in federally-assisted housing, should have the same access to treatment as their neighbors."

Per current U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policy, cannabis and all other federally-scheduled drugs are barred from public housing property entirely. In a 2014 memo released after Colorado had opened the nation's first legal recreational marijuana market, HUD officials reiterated their zero tolerance stance on ganja, with threats to "terminate the tenancy of the household" for in-home pot use.

Covering both medical and adult-use marijuana use if passed, Rep. Holmes' bill would change HUD policy so that "a person may not be denied federally-assisted housing for the use of marijuana in jurisdictions where medical or recreational marijuana has been legalized."

The legislation would not allow for public housing residents to actually smoke inside their homes or in public courtyards, but would instead bring rules for marijuana use in-line with general HUD tobacco regulations. Accordingly, in legal weed states, other forms of cannabis would be allowed on public housing grounds, with residents free to use unobtrusive products like edibles, tinctures, and topicals freely. Like electronic cigarettes, it would be up to management in individual buildings to permit or ban vaporizer usage.

Most importantly, the new legislation would remove the threat of eviction for marijuana users, with potential cannabis violations dealt with like cigarette violations — on a case-by-case basis with warnings and minor penalties from building management.

"You've made public housing a shameful thing, and then you shame the person further by saying they do not have the same rights as everyone else who has private property, who rents and pays 100 percent," DCMJ leader Adam Eidinger said at a protest against public housing cannabis restrictions last year.

Across the U.S., access to safe and sanctioned places to consume cannabis has emerged as a hot-button talking point, with every state-level marijuana reform law restricting legal use to owner-approved private property. For renters, tourists, and those experiencing homelessness, prohibition rules often still apply.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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