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Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York pressed the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on May 21, 2019, about policies that cause public housing residents and their families to be evicted for committing low-level offenses such as marijuana possession.

During a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Ocasio-Cortez first quoted HUD Secretary Ben Carson from a 2017 speech where he acknowledged that the war on drugs has disproportionately impacted communities of color.

“Do you acknowledge that the war on drugs disproportionately impacted black communities and communities of color despite marijuana and other drug use levels being comparable to white communities?” she asked the secretary for the record.

“Traditionally that has been the case,” Carson replied.

Ocasio-Cortez went on to say that she was concerned that “the negative impact of the war on drugs has not been limited to incarceration” and that “we had a legislative rippling effect that also seems to have been codified in our housing system.”

She pointed to two specific HUD policies: the “one strike” rule, which allows property managers to evict people living in federally assisted housing if they engage in illicit drug use or other crimes, and the “no fault” rule, which stipulates that public housing residents can be evicted due to illicit drug use by other members of their household or guests — even if the resident was unaware of the activity.

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York queried Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson on May 21, 2019, about policies pertaining to drug use that end up penalizing residents who receive federal housing assistance.  

Carson said that property owners in individual jurisdictions have discretion when it comes to enforcing the policy, but he conceded that these rules are in effect under federal law.

“So a person could be stop-and-frisked and be found in possession of a small amount of marijuana and then be evicted or have their entire family evicted from public housing?” Ocasio-Cortez asked.

“That is a possibility,” Carson said.

Ocasio-Cortez then asked whether Carson was aware of the “no-fault” rule, to which he replied that the “use of such activity is extremely limited, if ever used.” She responded by stating that the policies “are still codified in federal law” and asked whether the official supports “reversing some of these provisions” such as the “no-fault” rule.

Carson said he was willing to talk about individual cases, and Ocasio-Cortez followed up by noting that there's a lack of holistic review for these cases. Given Carson's interest in hearing details about individual cases, she wondered if he'd “support being able to move some of these policies to a more holistic review.”

“Should that case-by-case consideration be codified in federal law instead of having blanket, one-strike or no-fault policies?” she asked.

“I'm always in favor of more flexibility,” he said, signaling that he'd be open to reforming some of the anti-drug policies in effect federally at HUD.

Should Carson decline to take action, legislation introduced in April 2019 by Democratic Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a non-voting House delegate for Washington, D.C., would protect public housing residents who use marijuana in compliance with state law from being evicted.

Ocasio-Cortez herself has filed a bill that would prevent public housing applicants from being denied due to a low-level drug conviction that resulted in a sentence of under 10 years and prohibit drug testing of applicants “as a condition of such housing assistance,” among other reforms.

Feature image: Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York introduced a bill in the House that would prevent applicants for low-income housing from being denied for a low-level drug conviction, as well as prohibit testing applicants for drug use. (Photo by Ståle Grut via Wikimedia Commons; used with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)


This article was republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here.

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