Biden Administration Must Address Health Equity in Federal Housing

Since winning election in November, the Biden-Harris administration has been silent on the issue of federal medical cannabis reform. Rather than following through on campaign trail promises to support state medical cannabis programs and medical cannabis equity issues, patients have instead observed the administration backing away from this important work. Recently, we even witnessed the Biden administration opting against allowing several staffers who have used cannabis in the past to serve in the White House.

When questioned about why some staffers were let go due to their past cannabis use, Vice President Kamala Harris told the San Francisco Chronicle in an article published on March 28, “Honestly right now, we’ve been focused on getting people food, helping them stay in their apartments or in their homes, getting kids back to school, getting shots into arms… That has been all consuming.” The Vice President’s statement is painfully ironic due to the fact that many of the Americans she is trying to help stay in their homes are medical cannabis patients who rely on federal housing support and who are at risk of losing their housing if they use medical cannabis to treat their health conditions.

According to U.S. census data, there are nearly 4.6 million Americans who rely on federal support for housing. However, because federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, any of the 4.6 million Americans who rely on federal support for housing, and are medical cannabis patients, are at risk of eviction even if they live in one of the 36 states where medical cannabis is legal. As a result, many of our nation’s medical cannabis patients must choose daily between meeting their health and housing needs.

This is why Americans for Safe Access is calling on HUD Secretary Fudge to end federal housing discrimination against Americans living in federally subsidized housing but rely on cannabis medicine.

Currently, the largest population receiving federal housing support are seniors. A 2020 JAMA Internal Medicine research letter revealed that senior medical cannabis use doubled between 2015 and 2018, making seniors the fastest growing demographic of medical cannabis patients. Acknowledging this trend the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) publicly expressed support in 2019 for the group’s 38 million members to be able to use medical cannabis in consultation with their doctors if they live in states with legal medical cannabis access.

While many seniors who live in federally-subsidized housing experience health challenges suitable for medical cannabis treatment such as chronic pain, insomnia, neuropathy and anxiety, current federal law places these seniors at risk of loss of housing if they legally possess or use medical cannabis where they live.

At ASA, we believe that no one should have to choose between using the medicine they need to treat their health and housing security. Four years ago, Washington, DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act bill to address this ongoing and growing issue. Recently, she reintroduced this bill which would prevent the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from prohibiting or discouraging the use of cannabis in federally subsidized housing in states where medical cannabis is legal.

With Kansas and South Carolina advancing comprehensive medical cannabis legislation this year and bringing the total population of medical cannabis states to 38 and possibly more, medical cannais patients living in federally subsidized housing across these states are anxious for the federal government to take action now to end this discrimination and the fear of eviction they face. Please join ASA to urge HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge to change these policies immediately to prevent the millions of Americans using medical cannabis to treat their health in compliance with state law from losing or being denied housing.

See what other actions you can take to protect medical cannabis patients and expand access here.