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Mayor of Washington DC Is Working to Bring Legal Dispensaries to the Nation's Capital
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Now that the Democratic party has regained control of Congress, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser believes the time is right to finally legalize cannabis retail sales in the region.
Published on March 1, 2021

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Legal adult-use cannabis sales could finally be coming to the nation's capital under new legislation proposed by Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. 

Late last week, Bowser introduced a bill to create a taxed and regulated adult-use cannabis sales market in the District of Columbia. The Safe Cannabis Sales Act would allow licensed dispensaries to sell weed to adults 21-years or older starting on October 1, 2022. The bill also includes provisions to expunge prior cannabis convictions from court records. 

All legal weed sales would be taxed at 17 percent, and some of the resulting tax revenue would be used to support reinvestment in communities most heavily impacted by prohibition. Some of this revenue would fund grants to help businesses in disadvantaged areas open restaurants and grocery stores, and starting in 2023, additional tax revenue would be allocated to funding public schools in underserved communities.

“This is about safety, equity, and justice,” Bowser said in a press release, Marijuana Moment reports. “Through this legislation, we can fulfill the will of DC voters, reduce barriers for entering the cannabis industry, and invest in programs that serve residents and neighborhoods hardest hit by the criminalization of marijuana.”

Washington DC legalized the possession and personal use of cannabis back in 2014 by way of a ballot measure. This law allows adults to grow their own weed, use it in the privacy of their homes, and gift it to other adults, but continues to prohibit all sales of non-medical pot. As a result, “grey market” weed entrepreneurs have been devising creative ways to hand out “free” weed in exchange for mandatory donations, art, or sales of merch

DC's mayor, lawmakers, and most of the city’s residents all want to legalize adult-use sales, but Congress has continually blocked them from doing so. Ever since the District voted to legalize personal pot use, Republican lawmakers have passed a federal budget rider that blocks DC from using its own funding to regulate a legal cannabis marketplace.

Although Democrats have tried to strike down this unnecessary restriction, the Republican-dominated Senate managed to force the rider back into every single annual budget bill. But this year, the Democrats have control of Congress, and both chambers have demonstrated that they are finally ready to implement cannabis reform. Mayor Bowser is hoping that 2021 will finally be the year that Congress allows DC to make its own decision about legalization.

Activists have pointed out one major flaw with the bill, though. DC residents are currently allowed to grow their own weed, but the Safe Cannabis Sales Act would prohibit adults from possessing more than ten ounces of weed “that has been cut from the cannabis plant.” Activist group DC Marijuana Justice (DCMJ) has pointed out that one single home-grown cannabis plant can yield way more than ten ounces of pot.

In fact, even “one *BRANCH* from the cannabis plant, with leaves, buds, and stem can weigh well over 10ozs after it's been cut,” the group pointed out in a tweet. This possession restriction “DESTROYS one of the most important aspects” of the voter-approved initiative, “the right to keep what you grow,” DCMJ added. The bill is still being debated, though, so lawmakers still have time to correct this major oversight. 

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Chris Moore
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Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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