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Illinois marijuana legalization can’t apply to public housing in Chicago

Chicago Housing Authority tenants are ruled by federal law and could face eviction


Illinois will legalize marijuana on January 1, but residents living in public housing could still face consequences if the substance is used in a unit managed or subsidized by the Chicago Housing Authority. Similar to other public housing agencies in states with legal weed, CHA must follow federal law putting them at odds with the decision from state lawmakers.

A notice was sent to housing voucher recipients last week reminding tenants of the rules, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The message said that CHA could end all housing assistance if any tenant, household member, or guest was found using or possessing marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

The change in legislation and how city leaders will plan to implement it has been in constant discussion. In October, the mayor’s administration hosted several community meetings to get feedback on a downtown ordinance restricting sales and answer questions from those applying for licenses.

Most of the conversation so far has focused on the cannabis business and the kind of revenue it will be able to bring to the city. The affect it could have on housing has not been a large part of the discussion, which is one reason why CHA wanted to work on notifying its tenants.

In a statement CHA said:

While federal law prohibits marijuana use and possession in federally subsidized housing, the CHA is working to educate and inform residents so they understand all applicable laws related to cannabis and federally-funded housing. The CHA will work with the City of Chicago as it develops rules and regulations in accordance with existing state and federal laws in order to ensure a safe and responsible implementation of legalized cannabis in Chicago on January 1, 2020.

The housing agency, which is the third largest in the country, is working city officials to make sure that all residents understand the rules and how it applies to their daily life.

In April, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton introduced a bill proposing marijuana use be permitted in subsidized housing in states where cannabis is legal. Washington D.C.’s housing authority hasn’t evicted any tenant for using marijuana since it legalized cannabis under Initiative 71, according to the Washington Post. However, that isn’t the case for public housing residents in San Francisco, New York, and across the country in other places where medical or recreational uses are permitted.

This article originally appeared in Curbed Chicago.

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