Drug-related charges can affect your eligibility for both public housing and, if a landlord conducts a background check, private housing. An arrest – even before anyone is found guilty – can often trigger eviction of you or your entire household from public or private housing.

The rules governing who may be denied are very broad. Public and private housing authorities try to exclude people believed to “risk the health and safety of other tenants.”

Federal Law (42 USC § 13661(c)) gives Public Housing Authorities the power to deny people based on criminal activity.

Some housing authorities will overlook past drug-related criminal activity if evidence can be provided having successfully completing a supervised drug rehabilitation program. However, people with a marijuana conviction also are denied employment, so paying for these rehabilitation programs is difficult if not impossible.

Denial of housing affects more than the individual. Often children and families of the individual are by default denied the housing.

If the intention of denying housing is the prevention of any risk to the health and safety of other tenants, we need to recognize Federal marijuana prohibition laws giving such broad ability for denying housing risks the health and safety of families of those with marijuana conviction.