NEW YORK (PIX11) — A young mother parks herself on a bench, and shuffles her son off to a basketball court before whipping out some marijuana and rolling a joint. Twenty yards behind her, a familiar smell is emanating from a group of young men.
The folks are enjoying a sunny afternoon outside a New York City Housing Authority building on Staten Island’s north shore while casually smoking marijuana.
One resident, who is on the building’s board to address resident concerns, said she regularly sees people smoking weed and says she can often “smell it.” They do it inside the apartments, in the hallways and outside, she added.
Recreational marijuana use was legalized in the state last year, but it remains a federal violation. The city’s public housing buildings are run by the federal government, leading to confusion about how the law would be enforced on NYCHA properties. Police will treat the NYCHA buildings like any other areas they patrol, according to an NYPD source.
NYCHA is also likely to follow the state law on marijuana use with one caveat: they will treat smoking marijuana like tobacco use, said an NYCHA source. Residents are not permitted to smoke cigarettes inside the buildings and must light up at least 25 feet away from the properties, said the source.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development instituted the NYCHA smoke-free policy in 2018. The smoking guidelines are in the public housing lease and multiple infractions could lead to an eviction, but no NYCHA resident has yet been forced to leave for smoke-related infractions, the source said.
Before an eviction, residents are given multiple opportunities to correct the violations. But if they fail, NYCHA could terminate the lease, the source said.
A few other residents said they understood the smoking policy, but felt tenants who pay their rent should have certain freedoms. One man said that marijuana use is a tricky issue because it’s hard to enforce and people might be using it for medicinal purposes.