Washington D.C. legalized medical and adult-use cannabis years ago, and the industry has been flopping ever since. Most sales aren’t even taking place within the legal market, and pro-marijuana lawmakers initiated a unique strategy intended to stimulate medical marijuana in the city: self-certification for medical patients.
Medical cannabis was legalized in 2010, or almost thirteen years ago. During its entire lifespan, the D.C. medical cannabis industry has suffered immensely at the hands of congress, whose budget rider strictly prohibits D.C. from spending money to regulate cannabis.
Failure To Launch
How can an industry operate without capital? We’ll give you a second to think about the answer.
It can’t. A market without money is like a body without oxygen, and the cannabis market is being suffocated. There’s no way the market could have succeeded, considering the city is literally barred from taking regulation or enforcement action. Adult-use cannabis passed in 2015, too, and the city has been unable to officially roll out legal sales either.
The rider has even encouraged the black market to thrive! Since there’s no real way to integrate into the legal system, many companies have embraced a “gifting” policy of selling merchandise, like a t-shirt, and “gifting” their customers up to an ounce of cannabis with it. Of course, politicians aren’t too happy about this, and MMJ advocates aren’t, either.
The gifting economy, created in response to a bad budget rider, has also influenced the medical industry. In January 2021, over ten years after its initiation, D.C. only had around 9,000 registered patients.
Luckily, Mayor Muriel Bowser had decided she’d had enough by June 2022, passing an emergency act allowing medical patients to self-certify. This act had a huge impact; by the end of last month, D.C. had 22,482 registered cannabis patients. In fact, this measure was so successful that it will be permanently codified as part of a bill approved by the D.C. Council Judiciary & Public Safety Committee in October. This bill also eliminates existing licensing caps for cannabis businesses, which may help meet increased demand from visitors and residents.
As a result of these reforms, the District is skirting the ridiculous rider and seems to be in the process of implementing a regulated, adult-use cannabis market.
Joe Biden’s PR Stunts
Congress knows it’s stepping on D.C.’s toes with its budget rider, and it also knows that they’re putting the market in a chokehold. They’re so focused on flexing their power that they’re willingly emaciating a democratically implemented (and also totally legal) market, and Joe Biden is totally down for it.
Joe Biden’s regime has had the opportunity to strike the rider from the budget twice now, but has maintained its presence. In light of this, U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) challenged the president to go further – federally legalizing cannabis and letting the District finally have control over their cannabis markets.
A Democrat being a spineless campaigner isn’t news, and no one is really surprised Biden’s support of cannabis is nothing short of performative. What we are excited about, though, is the presence of D.C. lawmakers willing to try to circumvent the ridiculous rider. Holmes Norton and Bowser are doing cool things for the District, and we hope to see more pro-cannabis moves coming out of D.C.!
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