Low-income people can’t use medical cannabis in public housing, but that could change


Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, tenants of public housing are not allowed to use cannabis in their homes. Anyone caught doing so would risk losing a place to live. That’s highly problematic for tenants who need medical cannabis to treat their illnesses, but one lawmaker is pushing to give them access to their medicine. Rep. Eleanor Norton (R-D.C.) has introduced a bill in Congress that would make cannabis use in public housing legal.

“Individuals living in federally funded public housing who are prescribed legal, medical marijuana should not fear eviction for simply treating their medical conditions,” Norton said in a statement.  “Our legislation should attract bipartisan support because it also protects states’ rights. Over 90 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana. Congress needs to catch up with its own constituents and protect individuals who live where medical marijuana is legal, but who still have no way to use it because they live in federally funded housing.”

Morgan Fox, communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Cannabis News Box that this medical cannabis problem affects people across the country. “Patients risk eviction for their whole families if they consume their medicine at home, or in some cases even possess it on the property,” Fox said. “This is not a choice sick people should have to make. It also eliminates the option of home cultivation in states that allow it, which can cause more financial problems for some patients who are already facing economic hardship.”

In order to avoid getting evicted for consuming cannabis, medical cannabis patients have to find another place to consume it, like a friend’s house, which makes things extremely difficult for patients. If they try to do it in public, these already financially distressed individuals could face fines or jail time.

Fox isn’t sure if this bill will make it through Congress, but he hopes it will. While the public would likely support it, Congress is often a different story.

“While support for medical marijuana is nearly universal among the public, the same cannot be said for every member of Congress, even ones who hail from medical marijuana states,” Fox said. “The recent jump in support for marijuana policy reform at the federal level may not necessarily extend to more nuanced issues like this, since it is a relatively niche issue that only impacts a portion of patients. That being said, I think it is possible for this legislation to gain traction during this session, even if it does not pass.”