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Public housing remains unaffected by Virginia's new marijuana laws

Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority says residents living in public housing will still need to abide by federal laws.

NORFOLK, Va. — While Virginia is now the first southern state to legalize marijuana, the drug is still considered an illegal substance at the federal level. 

Possession of up to an ounce, consumption, and home cultivation all became legal starting July 1, but many factors surrounding cannabis remain illegal like transporting across state lines as well as purchasing or selling it. 

The differences brought by both local versus federal restrictions have been a common question posed by 13News Now viewers, who have been texting the number 757-628-6200 for questions regarding legalization. 

When it comes to the new laws that allow for consumption, possession, and home cultivation, those laws do not apply to residents living in public housing or federal rental assistance. 

The Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority closed Monday afternoon due to the July 4th holiday weekend, but officials with the department clarified with 13News Now that because of public housing's funding through federal dollars, those properties are still subject to federal law and therefore marijuana possession and consumption remain illegal.

When looking at the city's Admission and Continued Occupancy Policy (ACOP) -- a document itself more than 200 pages -- scattered throughout is language that prohibits drug use on property, which NRHA officials say remain unchanged despite Virginia's new laws:

  • To operate a socially and financially sound public housing agency that provides decent, safe, and sanitary housing within a drug-free, suitable living environment for tenants and their families.
  • Not to engage in criminal activity or alcohol abuse that threatens the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents or staff and not to engage in drug-related criminal activity on or off NRHA premises.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this could affect more than 217,800 Virginians across more than 100,000 households who use federal rental assistance. 

Advocacy group Virginia NORML shared on their Marijuana Legalization FAQ page that home cultivation may also be restricted through rental housing options. 

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