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Don't Expect Ben Carson To Allow Cannabis Use In Public Housing

President-elect Donald Trump just added yet another cannabis prohibitionist to cabinet. Yesterday, Trump announced that he's picked former neurosurgeon Ben Carson as his candidate for secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

"I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development," Trump said of his former rival for the Republican presidential nomination.

But the appointment is bad news for cannabis advocates because the appointment of Carson is a big win for the status quo. The secretary of housing and urban development manages federal public housing programs and develops policies to combat issues like homelessness and housing discrimination. But under Carson's regime, HUD will likely uphold discrimination against cannabis consumers.

"Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and that's how it's treated in federally supported housing," Brian Sullivan of HUD recently told Jacob Margolis of Southern California Public Radio. That means people who need public housing can be turned away simply for using marijuana - for medical or recreational purposes. This is true even in the 29 states that allow medical marijuana or the eight that have legalized recreational use.

The issue was most recently addressed by HUD in a December 2014 memo that says, "owners must deny admission to assisted housing for any household member determined to be illegally using a controlled substance, e.g. marijuana."  

Meanwhile, current residents can face eviction if they're caught with cannabis. The HUD memo points to a clause in housing laws that "affords owners the discretion to evict or not evict current tenants for their use of marijuana." So people caught consuming cannabis products at home in public housing are at the mercy of the owner.

Carson likely to uphold status quo

HUD's cannabis stance is unlikely to change under Carson, who campaigned against marijuana legalization during the Republican primaries."I don't want to do that," he said flatly when asked about legalizing recreational cannabis use during a campaign stop in Iowa last January. Months earlier, he said that he would not only support the War or Drugs but "intensify" it if he became president.

Carson has shown support for medical, but he wants to see it dispensed only in pill form.

"In terms of medical use, well, it does have some useful purposes for certain types of neurological disorders and pain syndromes, etc.," Carson said last September during a speaking event with My Faith Votes"However, it can be distilled into tablet form and used as a medicine very much like other active ingredients. A lot of the medications that we use today come from plants, but we process them to still them down to the active ingredients and make them into pills or capsules and utilize them in that way. And when used in that way, I think it can be useful. When used in a way that it can be abused and people can be exposed to it who really should not be exposed, it's abusive."

So Carson isn't as backward as his fellow cabinet appointees - especially Attorney General pick Jeff Sessions and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. But adding Carson to the mix makes it even clearer that the Trump Administration will likely uphold cannabis prohibition.

Banner Image: Albert H. Teich /


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