While marijuana arrests are certainly down in Chicago, questions have arisen about whether a new ban on using soon-to-be legal marijuana in public housing ends up being a continuation of old drug war policies in the communities already hit the hardest.
In the beginning of November, The Chicago Housing Authority sent out a letter to 60,000 tenants. The Chicago Sun-Times reported in that letter the CHA let it’s residents know despite the change in law coming to the state of Illinois, marijuana is still illegal under federal law and will be treated as such. This warning applied to both recreational and medical use.
The CHA noted the policy was dictated by the fact they are a federally funded entity. In accordance, they’ve used federal housing guidelines around Section 8 assistance, with a dash of local interpretation built into the guidelines, to establish a one-strike policy to evict people over a single marijuana possession offense.
The Chicago Reporter reported on the tale of Jessica Moore. In 2009 19 officers ripped her apartment to pieces finding her son’s $48 worth of pot. Her son was now a part of the statistics of Chicago’s most rapidly gentrified neighborhoods of the 2000s, the 2nd and 27th wards, as the city saw misdemeanor arrests rise to account for 76% of the arrests used to trigger evictions from CHA properties. As in Moore’s case, many where not the leaseholders.
The CHA wide language on their enforcement allows any criminal conviction to activate the one-strike conviction.
One-strike cases are the only kind of public housing eviction that does not give tenants the opportunity to file a grievance or request an internal hearing. They have to take it to civil court, but for people living in public housing, getting their own legal assistance to try and keep a roof over their head is a stretch.
Moore described watching Chicago police come to kick doors in on a daily basis. “The police would come into the building each day either knocking into somebody’s apartment or grabbing guys downstairs,” Moore told the reporter. That building she was in was eventually torn down.
The Reporter noted that during the last 20 months her building was occupied, 19 households were hit with a one-strike eviction. The leading cause in those evictions was a misdemeanor marijuana possession arrest.
Discrimination in Cannabis Enforcement
Despite cannabis arrest rates continuing to crash in Chicago, the racial