Time running out for council to consider improvements to medical marijuana program
Last update: August 15, 2016
The D.C. Council is considering two bills that would make important improvements to the medical marijuana program. B21-0210 would extend legal protections to patients who live in other states, which is especially important given how many people visit D.C. or move throughout D.C., Maryland and Virginia. In addition, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania all give protections to patients but do not yet have in-state access to medical cannabis, so those patients could benefit by having access to D.C.’s program. Meanwhile, B21-0192 would require testing of medical marijuana, which is important for patient safety and already required in many other states.
Despite widespread support and favorable reports from the council’s Health Committee, both of these bills are stuck in the Judiciary Committee; you can urge the committee members to move these bills forward this year. If they are not scheduled soon, they cannot be passed in this session.
For more information about the medical marijuana program, you can visit the District Department of Health’s medical marijuana program website.
Congress continues blocking sensible regulation in D.C.
In November 2014, D.C. voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 71, which legalized the limited possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana by adults who are 21 and older. It made no provision for non-medical sales and does not apply on federal property, including the national Mall and Interstate 295. For those under 21, it left in place the decriminalization law, which imposes a $25 civil fine.
Councilmembers Grosso, Orange, Evans, and Nadeau have sponsored legislation to create the regulatory framework necessary for a responsible marijuana industry. The “Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2015,” B21-0023, would allow the city to register and regulate marijuana cultivators, product manufacturers, retail stores, and testing labs and to impose taxes on the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older.
Unfortunately, Congress attached a “rider” to an appropriations bill that blocked the council from spending any money to enact a law that would reduce penalties associated with the use, possession, or sale of marijuana. This rider is set to expire on September 30, 2016.
In addition, some members of Congress have added an even more restrictive rider to the House’s FY2017 budget, but it has not passed the Senate, and MPP is working hard to ensure that it does not do so.
Elections may bring change to D.C. Council’s positions on marijuana policy
The most recent council vote on marijuana policy was on the social use ban, which effectively bans the consumption of marijuana anywhere outside a private home. That vote was 7-6 in favor of the ban. But, two of the councilmembers who supported the ban lost in the Democratic primary election in June. Their successful challengers are expected to be more willing to support sensible reforms to D.C.’s marijuana policies.
MPP issued a voter guide for the primary election and also co-hosted a forum on marijuana policy with several of the candidates. We are in the process of updating the voter guide for the general election.
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