GHURA seeks federal clarification on cannabis use in low-income housing

Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority (PNC file photo)

Guam is at the cusp of legalizing regulated cannabis for adult use but the substance is still considered illegal under federal law.

Legalization of adult use cannabis raises the question of how recipients of federally-funded housing assistance programs will be impacted by these changes. Will program recipients be required to undergo drug testing?

According to Ray Topasna, Guam Housing, and Urban Renewal Authority executive director, program beneficiaries will not be subjected to drug testing.

“If we were to do that, it would be very expensive. We have over 3,200 families collectively between Section 8 GHURA housing and Guam Trankilidat. If we were to test everybody, it (costs) would be astronomical,” Topasna said.

Topasna added that they have not received any clarity from the  US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The agency has oversight over GHURA.

“I did pose the question to them because we knew this was coming down the pipe. And they said – let’s wait till the law passes. Again, the Governor has not signed the bill into law. But we will get some feedback from HUD once it becomes law,” Topasna said.

GHURA is governed by federal laws and guidelines, but HUD has not ordered the testing of program recipients, according to Topasna. However, he does foresee a problem should HUD issue an order for drug testing.

“I think it would be problematic and I’m just saying this preliminarily. I think it would be problematic if you are smoking marijuana within one of our housing units,” he said.

Aside from the GHURA housing programs,  there are other federal assistance programs available for low-income island residents, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), MEDICARE and Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

PNC reached out to Department of Public Health Director Linda Denorcey for comment on the impact to public health federal assistance programs. But she is currently off island and unavailable to provide comment.

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Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.