Two bills to tax and regulate marijuana await Congressional action
Last update: October 17, 2019
Due to the fact that D.C. cannot control its own budget, Congress has been able to block the District from taxing and regulating marijuana sales. However, the House of Representatives has removed the “Harris rider" block from its spending legislation this year, so it is possible Congress may finally allow D.C. to set its own marijuana policy.
In anticipation of Congressional interference ending, two bills have been introduced in 2019 to tax and regulate marijuana in the District.
Mayor Muriel Bowser has introduced the Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2019, which would charge the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Board with licensing and regulating adult-use marijuana and tax retail sales at a 17% rate. You can read our full summary of the mayor’s bill here. Meanwhile, Councilman David Grosso’s Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2019 would charge the Alcoholic Beverage and Control Board and the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) with licensing and regulating adult-use marijuana businesses and apply a 10% retail sales tax. You can read our full summary of Councilman Grosso’s bill here.
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. 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.
Council committee holds hearing on employment protection bills
On September 25, 2019, the D.C. Council Committee on Workforce and Development held a hearing on two bills that would protect D.C. residents and medical cannabis patients from employment discrimination. The “Prohibition of Marijuana Testing Act of 2019” seeks to prohibit marijuana testing as a condition of employment with some exceptions — for both adult-use consumers and medical patients. The Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Act of 2019 seeks to prohibit the D.C. government from discriminating against patients participating in the medical cannabis program. The bills — which MPP’s Olivia Naugle testified in favor of — are awaiting further action in committee.
MPP Legislative Analyst Olivia Naugle testifying at the D.C. Committee
on Labor & Workforce Development public hearing in September 2019.
Mayor Bowser announces that D.C. will accept medical cannabis cards from any state
In August 2019, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that non-District residents with a medical marijuana card from any state may obtain their medicine from a D.C. dispensary while they are visiting the District.
The Department of Health had already authorized certified patients from some states to access D.C’s medical cannabis dispensaries with the approval of B21-0210 back in 2016. The mayor’s new rulemaking expands the number of states whose medical cards the District recognizes from 19 to at least 27.
New states added by the action are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Vermont. Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia are under review. Cards from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington State were already recognized.
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