Washington, D.C. lawmakers on Friday held a joint hearing on a pair of bills to authorize the legal sale of recreational marijuana and significantly expand the existing medical cannabis program in the nation’s capital.
The District Council’s Committee of the Whole, along with the Judiciary and Public Safety and Business and Economic Development Committees, took testimony from about 100 people on the legislation over the course of several hours.
They heard numerous recommendations on the legalization proposal, ranging from enhancing social equity provisions to ensuring that medical cannabis patients continue to have access to their medicine to establishing regulations for hemp and CBD products.
While D.C. voters legalized the possession, home cultivation and gifting of adult-use cannabis in 2014, a congressional rider has blocked the District from using its tax dollars to implement a regulated system of sales. Advocates are hopeful that the Democratic-controlled Congress will soon remove that barrier, however, and local legislators are now taking steps to advance reform legislation as soon as they get the green light from Capitol Hill.
The bill, sponsored by Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), would “require a regulatory scheme to license the cultivation, production, and retail sale of cannabis in the District.”
Today’s joint hearing is underway!
For witness lists, submitted testimony and the hearing notice, visit: https://t.co/hLgoxOXnt5
[The folder is labeled ‘11.19.21 Cannabis Bills’] https://t.co/AcXpdXX3oM
— Phil Mendelson (@ChmnMendelson) November 19, 2021
It would also “require that 50 percent of tax revenues from the sale of cannabis be deposited into a Community Reinvestment Program Fund and require automatic expungement of D.C. Code cannabis-related arrests and convictions, and provide an opportunities for re-sentencing of cannabis-related convictions,” according to a summary.
At the hearing, Mendelson said the bill “seeks to create a comprehensive regulatory framework for the cultivation, production and sale of recreational cannabis while centering reinvestment and opportunities for people in the communities hit hardest by the drug war.”
The House passed Fiscal Year 2022 spending legislation that would remove the block on D.C. in July. The Senate has not yet advanced its version of the bill through the Appropriations Committee or on the floor, though panel leaders released a draft measure last month that would similarly let D.C. legalize marijuana commerce.
Democratic congressional leaders are moving to delete the rider despite the fact that President Joe Biden’s budget proposal sought to continue the Republican-led ban.
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Ahead of Friday’s hearing, Mendelson and Councilwoman At-Large Christina Henderson (D) sent a letter to Senate leadership, reiterating that they do not want to see appropriations legislation continue to restrict the ability of D.C. to legalize cannabis commerce.
“Currently, the District is in the unsustainable situation of permitting recreational possession and use of small quantities of marijuana while being unable to regulate its sale or distribution,” they wrote. “As a result, a black market has evolved and is becoming substantial… It is time …….