D.C. Council considers more improvements to medical marijuana program
Last update: March 16, 2018
In 2016 and 2017, D.C. has made important improvements to its medical marijuana program, and more improvements have been proposed. A bill sponsored by Councilmember David Grosso (I, at large) would allow anyone 21 and over to access cannabis from dispensaries if they provide a signed affidavit that they are using marijuana for medical purposes. The bill would also give patients a safe, lawful place to consume cannabis outside their homes. Click here to urge your councilmembers to increase public safety and improve public health by allowing greater access to dispensaries.
In addition, a 2016 bill, B21-0210, provided that once implementing regulations and a District-wide electronic tracking system for patients’ purchases were put into place, patients who are registered with other states’ medical marijuana programs would be able to shop at D.C.’s dispensaries. Unfortunately, the Department of Health has been moving slowly to implement these changes, and its proposed regulations were so restrictive that they would have disqualified most patients. MPP lobbied the Council to disapprove the proposed regulations, and thankfully the Department of Health responded to the pressure and withdrew them.
Other recent improvements include: requiring independent laboratory testing of medical marijuana; allowing other medical professionals, in addition to M.D.s, to recommend cannabis; and increasing the amount of medical cannabis a patient can purchase over a 30-day period from two ounces to four. In addition, a misdemeanor drug conviction or a conviction for possession with intent to distribute marijuana will no longer be a bar to participation in the medical marijuana industry, and minority-owned businesses will have an advantage in the licensing process for new dispensaries.
Congress urged to stop blocking sensible regulation in D.C.
In November 2014, D.C. voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 71, which legalized the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana by adults 21 and older. Due to the fact that D.C. cannot control its own budget, Congress has been able to block the District from legalizing, taxing, and regulating the sale of marijuana. The lack of any lawful place to purchase non-medical cannabis has led to a proliferation of “grey market” operators and a significant increase in arrests for the distribution of marijuana, which have returned to pre-legalization levels. It also means D.C. is losing out on millions of dollars in tax revenue and hundreds of good jobs.
Councilmembers David Grosso, Brianne Nadeau, and Robert White have sponsored legislation to create the regulatory framework necessary for a responsible marijuana industry: the “Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2017,” B22-0030. Unfortunately, the Council cannot even hold a hearing on this sensible legislation until Congress stops blocking them from doing so through the appropriations process. Congress must pass new appropriations bills each year to fund the government, so 2017 presents another opportunity to change the law. The House version of the bill contains the bad language, but the Senate version does not, so the issue will be decided by a conference committee made up of representatives from each chamber.
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