Cannabis possession or consumption could not be used at the sole basis for denying people access to public housing under a pair of amendments to spending legislation that a congresswoman’s office shared with Marijuana Moment. The full House of Representatives could vote on one or both of the measures next week.
One of proposals introduced by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) would block the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from using its funds to enforce an ongoing cannabis prohibition to evict residents of federally assisted housing if they live in a state where it is legal for recreational purposes. The congresswoman’s second amendment would only apply to medical cannabis.
The goal of the amendments is consistent with standalone legislation the congresswoman has filed this session.
“Individuals should not be denied admission to or fear eviction from federally assisted housing simply for treating their medical conditions or using a substance legal under state law,” Norton told Marijuana Moment on Tuesday. “Increasingly, Americans are changing their views on marijuana. Congress needs to catch up.”
In May, Norton also sent a letter HUD Sec. Marcia Fudge, imploring her to use “executive discretion” to not enforce policies that prohibit cannabis use in federally assisted housing in states that have enacted legalization.
The text of the new amendments on the issue, which are cosponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), has not yet been publicly released but was shared with Marijuana Moment.
“Representative Norton’s amendments reflect a dire need for law-abiding, cannabis-consuming adults to not face a choice between their civil liberties and their right to stable housing,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “We hope that a majority of her colleagues will vote in favor of these amendments to move public policy in the right direction.”
Norton’s standalone bill, which is separate from the new amendments, would provide protections for people living in public housing or Section 8 housing from being displaced simply for using cannabis in states that have legalized it for medical or recreational purposes. The legislation would also require the HUD secretary to enact regulations that restrict smoking marijuana at these properties in the same way that tobacco is handled.
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Norton filed earlier versions of the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act in 2018 and 2019, but they did not receive hearings or votes.
The new cannabis amendments, if approved, would be attached to a large-scale spending bill. The deadline to file amendments is Wednesday, and the House Rules Committee is expected to determine which proposed changes will be made in order for floor consideration next week.
As it stands, these are the only two marijuana amendments that have been disclosed, but there may well be more to come for the multi-bill appropriations package that also covers funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Agriculture, Energy, Interior, Veterans Affairs, Transportation and other federal agencies and programs for Fiscal Year 2022.
Several of the bills and their attached committee reports already contain cannabis and drug policy provisions as introduced in subcommittee in recent weeks.
Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved spending bills and related reports that touch on a wide range of marijuana and drug policy issues—including calls to remove roadblocks to research into cannabis, noting the lifesaving potential of safe consumption sites for illegal substances, recognizing the painkilling promise of the kratom plant and urging the development of technology to detect impairment from THC.
Importantly, the legislation would also maintain an existing provision that shields state medical marijuana laws from intervention by the Justice Department. Advocates expect an amendment to be filed to the funding bill for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies that would extend the protections to adult-use legal states as well. That legislation is not part of this first spending package moving to the floor next week, however, and will be considered later.
Report language for the Labor and Health and Human Services spending bill further encourages agencies to continue studying cannabis, prevent universities from being penalized for conducting such research, mitigate marijuana use by adolescents and pregnant women and study impaired driving.
The Appropriations Committee also approved a bill that includes a report acknowledging that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has clarified that military veterans are eligible for home loan benefits even if they work in a state-legal marijuana industry. However, it expresses disappointment that VA hasn’t taken further action to communicate this policy to lenders and borrowers.
Meanwhile, the panel approved separate spending legislation recently that would protect banks from being punished for working with marijuana businesses and allow Washington, D.C. to legalize cannabis sales.
The move by congressional Democrats to let the District of Columbia set its own marijuana policies is in contrast with a budget released by President Joe Biden, which proposed continuing the longstanding Republican-led rider that has prevented the city from spending its own money to regulate adult-use cannabis commerce.
Read the text of Norton’s amendments on marijuana and housing rights below:
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