Last week, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton reintroduced a legislation that would allow individuals who live in public housing to use cannabis without living in terror of being evicted. Currently, individuals who live in federally subsidized housing are banned from using any controlled substances, even if those substances are in compliance with state law. Additionally, landlords are allowed to evict individuals who do so, regardless of state law. This bill introduced by the congresswoman would change this.
The bill would offer protection to individuals who live in Section 8 housing or federally assisted housing from being evicted for using marijuana in states that have legalized the plant, either for recreational or medical purposes.
Norton stated that people who live in public housing shouldn’t fear eviction or be denied admission for using a product that is legal under the law. She added that medical and/or adult use cannabis was currently legal in the District of Columbia and 36 other states, noting that more than 90% of Americans supported the legalization of medical cannabis.
The bill also directs that the head of the Housing and Urban Development Department implement rules that restrict smoking cannabis at these properties, rules that are similar regulations outlining the use of tobacco.
Norton explained that the Department of Housing and Urban Development, much like the Department of Justice, shouldn’t be permitted to implement federal cannabis laws in states that have legalized cannabis.
This is not the first time the congresswoman has filed this bill, having filed the legislation first in 2018 then again in 2019, without receiving any votes or even a hearing.
Earlier in 2018, an official under the Trump administration stated that she was working on sorting out conflicting state and federal cannabis regulations and how those regulations applied to residency in federally assisted housing. However, it is unclear what came as a result of these efforts.
Additionally, in a committee hearing in 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought up this same issue, raising concerns about policies that allowed the eviction of residents in public housing and their families for committing low-level offenses such as being in possession of cannabis.
Then Sen. Kamala Harris and Ocasio-Cortex also filed a bill in the same year that would protect individuals convicted of low-level drug offenses from being evicted from federally assisted housing or being denied access to the same. Furthermore, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley also brought to the house in 2020 a legislation that included a clause which would prevent landlords from evicting individuals for manufacturing cannabis extracts, as long as they were in compliance with the law.
The push to avoid unfairly treating residents of federally subsidized housing who need medical marijuana is similar to the equal treatment that cannabis industry actors such as Gage Growth Corp. (CSE: GAGE) (d.b.a. Gage Cannabis) long for, especially from the federal government that even denied state-legal cannabis firms access to coronavirus relief funds in the different stimulus packages that were approved.
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