After a decade of contentious cannabis policy, Washington, D.C. has made significant progress over the past year.
The District lifted its cap on the number of medical dispensaries and cultivators allowed in the District, which means that residents can access more legal cannabis than ever before.
These changes are part of a broader effort by local officials to bring order to the District’s marijuana industry and make it easier for residents to exercise their rights.
The Gift Of Ganja
The District of Columbia has embraced a unique method of cannabis sales that has been in place for nearly ten years.
In short, the city’s shops have been operating through a legal loophole that allows them to gift customers small amounts of cannabis by purchasing another item, such as apparel, art or motivational speeches. It’s all part of what is known as a “gifting program,” and it has allowed D.C.’s cannabis retailers to thrive despite federal budget riders preventing the city from commercializing retail.
That all changed recently, though, thanks to recent legislation passed by Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Mayor Bowser And Marijuana
Mayor Bowser is on a roll, and she’s not slowing down.
A few weeks after the D.C. Council unanimously approved an expungement bill, The D.C. Council announced that the city would begin to issue cannabis business licenses to legitimize the grey market. This move comes after months of pressure from activists and lawmakers supporting medical patients who have been self-certifying since the city began allowing them to do so in early 2018.
This action was part of a larger effort by Bowser to change the marijuana market—she signed an executive order last year that would make it easier for people convicted of marijuana possession to get those convictions removed from their records. And now, this latest move shows her commitment to helping those same people find safe access to cannabis medicine.
Mayor Bowser is one of the most pro-cannabis lawmakers in the country—she’s openly supported bills that would legalize recreational cannabis use, decriminalize consumption, allow home cultivation and give businesses access to banking services.
The End Of Licensing Caps
The D.C. Council has passed legislation to overhaul the city’s medical marijuana program, creating a path for gifting shops to apply for licenses in order to expand the regulated market.
The bill is expected to be sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s desk this week, and she has indicated that she will sign it into law.
This legislation comes after months of negotiations between business owners, patients and advocates resulting in compromise legislation that is better for patients and businesses. The new law will allow all medical dispensaries and cultivators currently operating in the city to continue serving patients while creating new opportunities for gifting shops that want to apply for licenses under the medical marijuana program.
It will also increase access to the city’s medical marijuana market by removing the cap on the number of medical dispensaries and cultivation centers and creating an application period for gifting shops in the town to move into the medical market.
D.C. leaders are taking cannabis into their own hands, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.
Despite the continued efforts of the federal government to delay progress in D.C.’s cannabis industry, local leaders and businesses have made incredible strides in ensuring that consumers and companies can thrive in this new legal landscape.
It’s safe to say that D.C. is already better off than if the feds were more involved—and we can only hope that other states and cities will follow suit.
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