Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has introduced a bill in Congress that would allow marijuana in public housing in states with legalized cannabis. Current regulations forbid all forms of cannabis, including medical marijuana, in all federally assisted housing. Norton’s bill, House Resolution 6152 (H.R. 6152) would apply to residents of both public housing and those in the Section 8 housing program.
Norton signed the bill at a ceremony in her Washington, D.C. office on Tuesday. Also at the ceremony was Sondra Battle, a resident of the District of Columbia and medical marijuana patient. Battle lives in assisted housing and uses medically prescribed cannabis to treat fibromyalgia. With Battle were Adam Eidinger and Nikolas Schiller, who together founded cannabis advocacy group DCMJ.
During the signing event, Norton announced that she would honor Battle in the title of the bill. In a press release, she also expressed gratitude to her guests for bringing the issue to her attention.
“I thank Sondra Battle and our DCMJ advocates for joining me to mark the introduction of what I am calling the ‘Sondra Battle Cannabis Fair Use Act,’” Norton said. “Residents like Sondra should not fear eviction from federally-assisted housing simply for using cannabis to treat their medical conditions. 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.”
Current Regulations Forbid Cannabis
Under current regulations, users of drugs that are illegal under federal law are not eligible for public housing assistance. The prohibition includes medicinal and recreational cannabis that is legal under state law. Landlords can also evict residents receiving public assistance for using legal marijuana.
If Norton’s bill becomes law, in states with legalized recreational or medical marijuana a person could not be denied federally assisted housing for using cannabis. Instead, the same rules that apply to the smoking of tobacco would apply to smoking marijuana.
Norton Praises Activists
Norton also used the signing ceremony to recognize cannabis activists Eidinger and Schiller of DCMJ. They told Norton about residents like Battle and suggested the legislative fix.
Eidinger and Shiller founded DCMJ in early 2013 as a campaign to change the District of Columbia’s outdated cannabis laws. Later that year the group transitioned into the DC Cannabis Campaign to join the push to pass Ballot Initiative 71. Voters passed the initiative in November 2014, legalizing the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. Ballot Initiative 71 also legalized the personal cultivation of up to three cannabis plants. After the passage of Ballot Initiative 71, the DC Cannabis Campaign reverted back to DCMJ in 2015. The group now fights for equal rights for cannabis users, growers, and their families in the District of Columbia.
In a 2017 op-ed for the Washington Post, Eidinger noted that many D.C. residents could not enjoy the protections of Ballot Initiative 71. With public consumption and cannabis social clubs both banned, many had no alternative for legal use.
“So even after legalizing marijuana in the District, the 20,000 residents whose landlord is the federal government are stuck living under draconian, drug-war policing and don’t have a safe place to smoke or medicate in or out of their home,” he wrote.
Norton introduced H.R. 6152 in the House of Representatives on June 19. The bill was then referred to the House Committee on Financial Services for consideration.