Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana Use in Public Housing Introduced in Congress

No one should have to choose between housing and medical cannabis.
Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana Use in Public Housing Introduced in Congress
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A bill that would permit the use of medical marijuana by residents of public housing in states with legal medicinal cannabis programs was introduced in Congress last week. The measure, the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act of 2019, was introduced on Thursday by Democratic Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a nonvoting delegate from the District of Columbia.

Under current federal regulations, those who use drugs that are illegal under federal law, including cannabis used medicinally, are ineligible for federal public housing assistance. Landlords are also permitted under federal law to evict residents for using cannabis or other drugs. Norton said that the law should be changed for those residents of public housing who are using cannabis medicinally in accordance with state law.

“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,” Norton said

Norton noted that for the past several years, Congress has prohibited the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prevent jurisdictions from implementing their medical marijuana laws. The Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act would extend similar protection to individuals who use marijuana in federally assisted housing in compliance with the state’s marijuana laws.

The bill would require the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to develop regulations that restrict smoking marijuana in federally assisted housing in the same manner and to the same locations as restrictions for smoking tobacco. Spokespeople at HUD have not yet responded to a request for comment on Norton’s bill, according to the Associated Press.

Federal Cannabis Policy Should Reflect Public Opinion

Norton said that federal law should be changed to reflect the changing views of Americans in regards to cannabis policy.

“Increasingly, Americans are changing their views on marijuana, state by state, and it is time that Congress caught up with its own constituents.  With so many states improving their laws, this issue should have broad bipartisan appeal because it protects states’ rights.”

Norton’s bill has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services for consideration. Last month, the committee approved another cannabis reform measure, the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019, by a vote of 45-15. The bill would protect cannabis business who are operating in accordance with state law from interference by the federal government.

Norton is also leading the drive to remove congressional restrictions that prohibit the District of Columbia from using local funds to regulate the commercialization of recreational cannabis. On Saturday, she was a featured speaker at Washington, D.C.’s 420 celebration, the National Cannabis Festival.

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