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Marijuana Will Soon Be Legal In Illinois, But It's Still Prohibited In Federal Public Housing, Sparking Fears Among Tenants

WILMINGTON (CBS) -- Recreational marijuana will soon be legal in Illinois, but federally it's prohibited. It's use or posession can still cause public housing tenants to lose their living arrangements.

CBS 2's Vince Gerasole found out that, as notices go out to remind tenants of law, some landlords are going to extremes.

There are growing pains with Illinois' switch to legal recreational marijuana that have nothing to do plants

"This is like living under terrorist threat, psychological terrorist threat," said a woman who lives in a federally subsidized apartment in Wilmington. This woman asked us to hide her identity, but there's no hiding her fears about losing her home.

"They could just come at anytime starting January 1," she said.

She's talking about a letter sent to tenants. It reminds them marijuana is still a federally controlled substance not permitted in public housing. It states Landlords have "the right to inspect" units for "illegal drugs. "

The most disturbing wording: the "inspection may occur without notice"

"We shouldn't have to fear being asleep and they show up at the door or in the shower," she said. "It's not fair."

Landlords also want to require testing for illegal drugs of all residents if  "deemed necessary."

The woman who spoke with CBS 2 is physically disabled and admits to using medical marijuana off premises, but she's worried.

"The way it stays in your system, I don't want that happening to me. I am not doing it here." She says she has no other living options if the landlord found reason to evict her.

Last summer the Chicago Housing Authority informed residents of the discrepency between federal and state marijuana laws. It stopped well short of spot inspections and mandatory drug testing.

There is no easy answer here or anywhere else in the state where various versions of this kind of letter are being circulated, though not all to this extent.

It's confusing and frightening the very tenants who need public housing the most.

Late this afternoon, the landlord did not seek federal approval to distributed the letter and sources say it is being recalled and more reasonable requirements will be communicated to residents.

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