Cannabis is legal in the country’s capital and has been for quite some time now. Both the legal and medical markets are thriving, and D.C. cannabis has been doing remarkably well, with an 80% reduction in cannabis-related arrests. However, it seems lawmakers aren’t totally satisfied with the market and are working on changes, which this article will break down for you.
Legislators in Washington, D.C. approved a bill that’s set to reshape the District’s medical marijuana program in several key ways, including eliminating licensing caps for medical marijuana businesses, promoting social equity in the industry, and creating new regulated business categories such as on-site consumption facilities and cannabis cooking classes. The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act, which is being pushed by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) on behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), also includes provisions that would allow officials to crack down on “gifting” businesses that sell non-cannabis items in exchange for “free” marijuana products.
The crux of the amendment, however, revolves around the medical cannabis industry.
Medical Marijuana In D.C.
The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act (MCAA) states that the medical market in D.C. is underutilized, despite being a nearly 10-year-old industry. The bill seeks to codify an emergency act passed by Mayor Bowser earlier this year allowing medical patients to self-certify. The act was passed in response to “prohibitive” healthcare costs.
This is intended to both lower barriers to healthcare and boost the District’s medical cannabis industry. The emergency act has already proven successful, and the MCAA cites its impact as a major positive.
Social Equity Licensing And Other Inclusions
According to the bill text, regulators must ensure that at least 50% of new dispensary or cultivation licenses go to “social equity applicants and medical cannabis-certified business enterprises.” It also states that certified businesses will be given more points for any license types that aren’t explicitly designated for those groups.
According to the bill text, regulators must ensure that at least 50% of new dispensary or cultivation licenses go to “social equity applicants and medical cannabis-certified business enterprises.”
It also states that social equity and medical cannabis-certified business enterprises will be given more points for any license types that aren’t explicitly designated for those groups. Regulars must also waive 75% of non-refundable fees for qualifying businesses.
Removing marijuana business licensing caps could also help the District keep up with demand, but it seems like legislators are hoping that the new licensing requirements will incentivize companies to transition from gifting to the regulated economy.
The Congressional Blockade
Advocates have applauded legislative efforts to expand cannabis access in the District, but many continue to stress the importance of ending the congressional blockade that has prevented D.C. from establishing a regulated market.
The District of Columbia residents overwhelmingly supported legalizing marijuana for adult use in 2014. However, because D.C. is not a state, a Congressional budget rider prevents it from taxing and regulating marijuana sales with its own funds. D.C. cannot regulate marijuana under these conditions, and despite D.C. voters’ clear wishes, there is currently no legal access for adult use, allowing the gray gifting market to thrive.
All in all, a lot needs to be done to improve access to cannabis in Washington, D.C. The congressional blockade on businesses is causing the illegal market to thrive, which just fuels opposition and prevents people from accessing cannabis. The District has been clear: people want access to cannabis, and their lawmakers seem to be listening. Congress, unfortunately, does not appear to be listening. Hopefully, Biden’s marijuana pardon was just the first in a long line of federal reform.
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