DC Awaits Response From Congress On Expanded Marijuana Program

Earlier this month, legislation was passed for review on Washington DC’s medical cannabis regulations. It included proposed changes that will expand the medical cannabis regulations and expunge prior marijuana offenses. 

After years of dissatisfaction with the limited access to cannabis owing to the laws in place, many stakeholders are eagerly awaiting the outcome.

In 2014, voters took a stance and were able to have the adult use and possession of marijuana legalized. This allowed home cultivation and for adults to possess up to two ounces of cannabis. Following that, the first legal marijuana sales in Washington were made on July 8 of that year. 

Outside of Washington, this is not the case for many states, for instance, Delaware, as they are still in the process of trying to have adult-use marijuana legalized.

However, since 2014, no such provisions have been made explicitly pertaining to an industry for recreational use. Efforts made in the past to create a viable retail market in DC were stopped under the US congressional budget. It has become the norm for lawmakers to go back and forth on the matter.

As a result, in previous years, many underground markets have popped up and continue to operate without standards and regulations. In other words, the city was forced to end around the federal government numerous times to increase access to cannabis within the district.

One such method involves offering marijuana for free as a bonus that comes along with a legitimate purchase. This loophole came about when the adult use and possession of marijuana were legalized and allowed adults to give up to one ounce of weed to another adult. 

It can therefore be said that these unofficial markets stand in competition with the established medical marijuana dispensaries, of which there are only 7 in the city. 

The Promising News

Given that the mayor of Washington, DC, Muriel Bowser, signed a bill to make further changes to the capital’s medical marijuana program, it is hoped that this will be instrumental in ushering in a new phase for the cannabis industry.

This would include the following: 

  • Getting rid of the licensing caps for cannabis businesses and increasing opportunities for even more companies
  • Authorizing a wider variety of cannabis license types, such as cannabis delivery services, online sales, and educational programs
  • Allowing operators to benefit from tax relief 
  • Promoting social equity and the creation of new regulated business categories such as on-site consumption facilities on-site as well as cannabis cooking classes
  • Providing an avenue for existing businesses to enter the licensed market
  • Codifying emergency measures that were passed in 2021 and 2022
Promising News medical marijuana program

A 30-Day Wait

Though Washington DC has a mayor and City Council like many other American cities, legislation they pass is also required to go to Congress. 

This means that the legislation mentioned earlier in this article will make its way to Congress for federal lawmakers’ final approval this month. This unique process involves a 30-day review under the district’s Home Rule Act which will end in early March.

Once accepted in the congressional review, it is expected that this expansion in the cannabis industry will go into effect in Washington by March 8.

Marijuana sales are already hitting record highs in the adult-use market in other states, and the same is expected to happen in the capital if the industry expands. 

The Expungement Bill

As for the expungement bill (the Second Chance Amendment Act of 2021), it has already been approved by lawmakers at the District level and is also currently under review by Congress. 

This means that all marijuana-related charges that have since been officially eliminated from the law books under legalization by January 1, 2025. Depending on the decision made in Congress, this law will go into effect on March 16 this year. 

expungement bill (the Second Chance Amendment

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