The Chicago Housing Authority board of commissioners approved Tuesday an update to its cannabis policy to protect residents from eviction.
While recreational marijuana is now legal in Illinois, it remains prohibited even for medical use under federal law, which covers people living in public housing or using a Section 8 voucher to subsidize their rent in the private market. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) oversees those programs.
Acting CEO James Bebley said CHA does not plan to search for marijuana, and if people are peaceful in their apartments, nothing will come to CHA’s attention.
He added that if a resident uses cannabis for medical reasons, CHA would be mindful.
“Our intent is to work with residents … to exercise their rights and fulfill our obligation with HUD,” Bebley said.
The updated policy states that if someone is caught growing, possessing or distributing cannabis, the CHA lease process will consider “relevant facts on a case-by-case basis and mitigating circumstances.” That would include: if the resident has a disability; the time, nature and extent of the conduct; how it will affect an entire family; and its overall impact.
In November, CHA put out a strongly-worded notice to residents informing them marijuana use wouldn’t be allowed come January when recreational legalization kicked in. The notice iterated that a violation could mean the termination of housing. Residents called the language a slap in the face. Critics called it a double standard to punish individuals receiving federal housing subsidies for using marijuana even though their market-rate neighbors in mixed-income communities could do the same without penalty.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot then wrote a letter to Bebley encouraging CHA to use discretion and latitude for residents found using marijuana. CHA responded that it would use discretion and work with residents to educate them regarding the state’s new cannabis law.