Cannabis laws and regulations constantly evolve, and Washington D.C. is no exception. With the recent changes in the political landscape, there has been a renewed focus on cannabis-related legislation.
At DC Dash, we are constantly re-educating ourselves on the current cannabis news and legislation, and we want to help keep you in the know as well. This blog post will cover the latest news and legislation regarding cannabis in Washington D.C.
Background on Cannabis Legalization in Washington D.C.
In 2014, Washington D.C. became the first city on the East Coast to legalize the possession of minimal amounts of marijuana for personal use. However, the legalization was limited by federal laws, as cannabis is still considered a Schedule I drug under federal law.
This means that while the District of Columbia has legalized cannabis, it is still illegal under federal law.
Despite this, the District of Columbia has continued to move forward with cannabis legalization. In 2019, the D.C. Council passed a bill that legalized the sale of cannabis, but it was later blocked by Congress.
The issue of cannabis legalization in D.C. has remained a topic of debate and discussion in recent years, with lawmakers and advocates pushing for change.
Latest Developments in Cannabis Legalization in Washington D.C.
Recently, there have been some significant developments in cannabis-related legislation in Washington D.C. Here are some of the latest updates:
The MORE Act:
The MORE (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement) Act is a piece of legislation that was introduced in the United States Congress in 2019.
The bill seeks to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level by removing it from the list of controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act. This would effectively end the federal prohibition of marijuana and allow states to determine their own policies on the drug.
The MORE Act also seeks to address some of the negative impacts of the war on drugs, particularly on communities of color.
The bill would provide for the expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions and establish a fund to provide resources to communities most affected by the war on drugs.
The bill passed the US House of Representatives in April 2022, but it did not advance in the Senate. However, with Democrats now controlling both the Senate and the White House, there is renewed hope that the MORE Act will pass into law.
In addition to its criminal justice provisions, the MORE Act also includes measures to support small businesses in the marijuana industry, to protect the rights of individuals who use marijuana for medical purposes, and to fund research into the effects of marijuana on public health.
The Safe Banking Act:
The Safe Banking Act is a piece of legislation that aims to address the issue of the cannabis industry’s lack of access to banking services. Currently, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, even though it has been legalized for medical or recreational use in many states.
As a result, banks and other financial institutions are often reluctant to provide financial services to cannabis-related businesses, for fear of violating federal law.
The Safe Banking Act seeks to address this issue by providing a safe harbor for banks and other financial institutions that choose to work with cannabis-related businesses that are legal under state law.
Specifically, the act would prohibit federal banking regulators from taking action against banks that provide financial services to cannabis-related businesses that are operating legally under state law.
The Safe Banking Act has received bipartisan support in Congress and has been passed by the House of Representatives multiple times, most recently in April 2021.
The bill has yet to pass in the Senate, but it has garnered support from some members of the Senate, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has been an advocate for cannabis legalization and subsequent racial justice.
If passed into law, the Safe Banking Act would provide much-needed relief to the cannabis industry, which has long struggled with issues related to banking and finance.
The act would enable cannabis businesses to access financial services like loans, lines of credit, and bank accounts, which would in turn help them to operate more efficiently and safely.
The District of Columbia’s Cannabis Legislation:
In December 2022, the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act was passed by the Washington D.C. council. The bill that seeks to promote equity in the city’s medical cannabis industry by eliminating license caps and providing tax relief to small businesses.
The bill also aims to increase access to medical cannabis for patients, particularly those from disadvantaged communities, and to ensure that those who have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs have an opportunity to participate in the industry.
Additionally, the bill includes provisions for social equity grants and training programs to support the development of a diverse and inclusive industry. The new legislation has been praised by advocates for its focus on equity and access in the medical cannabis market.
Mayor Muriel Bowser signed this bill into law in January 2023, significantly expanding D.C.’s medical cannabis program.
In January 2021, the D.C. Council introduced the “Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act,” a bill that would legalize the sale, possession, and home cultivation of cannabis for adults aged 21 and over in Washington D.C.
The bill also provides for the regulation and taxation of cannabis sales in the district.
Under the bill, individuals would be allowed to possess up to two ounces of cannabis for personal use, and they would be permitted to grow up to six plants at home (no more than three of which can be mature).
The bill would also create a system of licensed cannabis businesses, including cultivation facilities, processing facilities, and retail stores, which would be regulated by a new agency, the Cannabis Regulation and Licensing Authority.
The bill includes provisions to address social equity concerns, including a requirement that a portion of cannabis tax revenues be directed towards programs aimed at addressing the harms of the war on drugs, and a preference for licensing opportunities to be given to individuals from communities most impacted by drug prohibition.
This bill has been since codified as a law and serves as guidelines for the use of recreational cannabis in DC.
DC Dash: Supporting Cannabis Industry Progress!
Overall, there have been some significant developments in cannabis legislation in Washington D.C. The reintroduction of the MORE Act and the Safe Banking Act are both positive signs for cannabis legalization advocates.
Additionally, the D.C. Council’s laws to legalize the sale and taxation of cannabis and remove license caps as well as create social equity programs is a step forward for the District of Columbia.
While there is still a long way to go before cannabis is fully legalized and decriminalized, these recent developments are a positive sign for the future.
With continued advocacy and support, we may see continued progress toward cannabis-related social equity in Washington D.C. and throughout the United States.
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