Lead photo via Twitter user Natalie Fertig
If you didn’t have party plans or children to take trick-or-treating for Halloween yesterday, your holiday celebration probably looked a lot like ours, with too much candy, a whole lot of weed, and a Stranger Things binge session. But for the millions of Americans living in public housing, getting high at home comes with its own set of downright terrifying consequences.
Despite cannabis legalization taking hold in over half the country, a 2014 memo from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) clearly states that the housing authority recognizes only federal law and the marijuana prohibition it enforces, with punishments as harsh as the ability to “terminate the tenancy of the household,” or evict residents to homelessness if tenants even carry marijuana into public housing complexes.
Criminalizing cannabis in public housing, evicting in DC, is racist/classist, says DC activist David Thurston. #LegalizeIt #HauntedbyHUD pic.twitter.com/Q1EJ5KSyHm— Lacy MacAuley (@lacymacauley) October 31, 2017
In Washington D.C., where recreational cannabis use is legal but strictly limited to private homes and non-public property, those HUD rules create a catch-22 for the District’s roughly 20,000 public housing residents who are technically allowed to possess the plant, but have nowhere to legally consume it.
The same can be said for public housing residents in California, Colorado, Washington, and everywhere else that cannabis is allowed for medical or recreational purposes.
To protest that double standard and bring attention to an issue that predominately affects the country’s underprivileged community, activists from the Washington D.C. cannabis advocacy group DCMJ spent a portion of their Halloween holiday locked in a makeshift jail cell outside of HUD’s District headquarters, handing out 420 free, one-gram bags of weed while vocally reprimanding the agency's housing policy.
There a group handing out cannabis from a mobile “jail cell” outside HUD, to protest HUD’s marijuana policies pic.twitter.com/xfonEgwT3H— Natalie Fertig (@natsfert) October 31, 2017
"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," said Adam Eidinger from behind the bars of the group’s jail cell prop aptly named “The Haunted HUD House," according to Patch D.C.
The direct action was similar to the group’s April 20th protest at the U.S. Capitol building, where leading District cannabis advocate Eidinger and a handful of others were arrested after distributing free joints to congressional staffers. Those charges have since been dropped at both the city and federal levels, but DCMJ still opted to update their methods for the Halloween HUD protest.
DC NOW @DCMJ2014 @HUDgov #HauntedByHUD You know you want some. pic.twitter.com/2XQJf2FWM0— Mike Flugennock (@flugennock) October 31, 2017
“When we gave away joints back in April, the government seized over 600 joints from us,” Eidinger told Leafly. “This time, we decided not to bring joints, but to actually bring little baggies of weed and have the law printed on them. It actually says on the bag that this is Initiative-71 compliant; to share with adults only; how much you’re allowed to possess, under two ounces; and it talks about gifting, not selling it; and it talks about not using it in public.”
This time, no arrests were made, with Eidinger and DCMJ setting up their trick-or-trees giveaway squarely on city property, out of reach from the long arm of Uncle Sam and federal prohibition.
DON'T CRIMINALIZE CANNABIS for people in DC public housing! Protest outside HUD in Washington DC to #LegalizeIt. #Marijuana #HauntedbyHUD pic.twitter.com/ereIXZN9Aq— Lacy MacAuley (@lacymacauley) October 31, 2017
Since Donald Trump took over the Oval Office, failed presidential candidate Ben Carson has taken over as the head of HUD, and has since given little indication that he even knows the basic responsibilities of his job, much less demonstrating any compassion for the public housing tenants baselessly persecuted for their legal cannabis use.
Earlier this summer, Carson went as far as to claim that marijuana makes people stupid.
“I’m not all that enthusiastic about marijuana because there have been numerous studies that show exposing a developing brain to marijuana can lead to lower IQs,” Carson told a crowd at the Native American Housing Association’s annual meeting. “We already have enough people with a low IQ, and we don’t need anymore.”