Following a recent trend in Congress to address the collateral consequences associated with a marijuana-related conviction, Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Ocasio-Cortez have introduced the Fair Chance at Housing Act. If passed by Congress, the bill would make it easier for people with criminal records to receive federal housing assistance by prohibiting the use of suspicionless drug and alcohol testing, banning discriminatory “1-strike” and “no-fault” policies and more.
“As our country continues working toward much-needed reform of our criminal justice system, I am proud to work with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez to ensure formerly incarcerated individuals and their families have access to safe and affordable housing as they transition back into their community,” said Senator Harris. “By requiring a higher standard of evidence and a more holistic review process, we are taking a significant step toward giving Americans a fair chance to succeed.”
Currently, marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance can prevent honest and hardworking individuals from securing housing assistance and other basic services. As a result, property management companies are employing discriminatory policies that deny responsible marijuana consumers access to subsidized housing and other assistance.
“I am proud to join Senator Harris in introducing the Fair Chance at Housing Act. This legislation is one of many steps that need to be taken to repair our broken criminal justice system,” said Representative Ocasio-Cortez. “The denial of basic necessities to formerly incarcerated people does not make our communities safer. Denying housing to those that have been formerly incarcerated increases recidivism. Today we are taking a step to make our communities safer.”
While this effort falls short of ending marijuana prohibition at the federal level, it does address the very policies that contribute to a lifetime of social and economic challenges for responsible marijuana consumers. It’s time to end the broken and discriminatory policies of marijuana prohibition. Ensuring a fair chance at housing assistance is a step in the right direction.