CHA relaxes no-pot policy, will now review offenses on case-by-case basis
The CHA said it intends to “work with residents, participants, applicants and landlords to provide information and guidance in their efforts to exercise their rights under local law without jeopardizing their housing under federal law.”
The Chicago Housing Authority’s board of commissioners on Tuesday approved a revised policy that looks to protect some residents from potentially being evicted for using marijuana.
In November, the CHA sent a sternly worded letter to all 63,000 households under its watch warning that residents could still be evicted for cannabis-related violations even though the use of weed in Illinois had been made legal.
“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,” read a notice sent to housing voucher recipients.
That letter prompted Mayor Lori Lightfoot to urge CHA CEO James Bebley to review each cannabis-related case individually and provide information on conflicting federal and local pot laws.
Though Illinois legalized recreational cannabis earlier this month, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, putting it in the same category as heroin and LSD. Because the CHA is federally funded, the agency and its properties are governed by the overarching federal drug law.
As part of the updated policy, the CHA said it intends to “work with residents, participants, applicants and landlords to provide information and guidance in their efforts to exercise their rights under local law without jeopardizing their housing under federal law.”
While complaints against residents about the use, possession, distribution or cultivation of cannabis can trigger an agency review, those types of allegations will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, according to the policy. That lease or voucher review process will take into account the specific circumstances surrounding each incident — including whether pot is being used for medical reasons and whether it’s fair to take action against an entire family based on one person using pot.
“These mitigating circumstances include the time, nature and extent of the conduct; the relationship of the conduct to the disability of a family member; its impact on others; the impact of a proposed action on family members; the viability of limiting a negative action to certain users rather than entire families; and any factors that might indicate a reasonable probability of favorable future conduct of the Resident or Participant, including rehabilitation,” the policy states.
What’s more, CHA spokeswoman Molly Sullivan confirmed that the agency won’t be searching for marijuana in public housing units or proactively enforcing against pot use.