Marijuana Banned In Chicago Public Housing Despite Upcoming State Legalization

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On January 1, 2020, Illinois will legalize recreational marijuana use, but it turns out not all adults will be allowed to benefit. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that last week, The Chicago Housing Authority sent out a notice to housing voucher recipients that informed them that marijuana would remain illegal on public housing property. 

Since marijuana will remain illegal under federal law - which classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug, along with heroin - and the CHA is a federal-funded agency, public housing residents who are caught smoking marijuana can have their subsidies revoked. “The CHA can TERMINATE all assistance ... if you, a member of your household, or a guest or person under your control is found engaging in drug-related criminal activity, including the use and/or possession of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes,” reads the notice. 

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Mary Rosenberg, a staff attorney at the civil rights organization Access Living, commented on the ban to The Chicago Sun-Times. “Marijuana is sometimes the only thing that ameliorates someone’s disability because they’re allergic to certain types of medication,” she said. “It’s unfair not to allow these folks to use it essentially because they’re poor and live in subsidized housing.”

Kate Walz, vice president of advocacy at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, pointed out the blatant racial implications of not affording lower class citizens the same rights as others.“Residents who live in subsidized housing don’t have the same rights as the rest of us do. They can’t consume marijuana in their home even though the state legalized it or they’ll lose their housing subsidy. And the majority of people who live in federally assisted housing in Illinois are people of color, so it’s creating a racial equity issue in the state.”

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