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New Senate Bill Could End the Ban on Legal Cannabis Sales in Washington D.C.

The grey-market status of cannabis in the nation's capital has caused marijuana arrests to rise to pre-legalization levels.

by Chris Moore

Image via MikeyLPT

A new bill introduced in the U.S. Senate this week would allow Washington D.C. to finally take steps to begin recreational cannabis sales, Marijuana Moment reports. Cannabis use has been in a legal grey area since the city voted to legalize cannabis possession in 2014. The ballot measure allowed D.C. residents to possess cannabis or gift it to another adult, but prohibited any sales of the drug. As a result, numerous entrepreneurs in the city have come up with a variety of unique cannabis services where adults can make donations in exchange for “free” weed.

Many of the city's officials and residents have pushed for full recreational legalization and all of the financial benefits that can bring, as demonstrated by successful cannabis industries in rec-legal states. However an annual federal budget rider passed by Congress has blocked the city from spending any of its own money to create a legal regulatory system to oversee and tax legal marijuana sales. Fortunately, this impediment may finally be on its way out.

The current version of the bill introduced by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) this week does not include any language whatsoever discussing cannabis sales in D.C. If passed as is, that means that the ban preventing the city from funding a regulatory cannabis sales system will expire next year, allowing city officials to move ahead with recreational sales.

Although the Senate version of the bill remains silent on the topic of cannabis prohibition in D.C., the House version of the bill still contains the language which would continue the ban for another year. The House bill goes even further by closing a legal loophole that would have allowed city officials to use contingency reserve funds to pay for a cannabis regulatory agency. If the Senate bill passes without the ban, and the House bill passes with the ban, the two chambers will meet in a joint committee to hash out the differences, which may or may not have a favorable outcome for legalization.

In the meantime, D.C. hasn’t been able to experience the benefits of full recreational legalization. The fact that any adult resident of the city is legally allowed to smoke up has created a great demand for weed, resulting in a thriving black market. In response, the city's police have been cracking down on illegal dealers, causing arrest rates to rise to pre-legalization levels. Cannabis advocates have noted that police have been disproportionately making these arrests in low-income, minority neighborhoods, while wealthier residents of the city are allowed to buy weed and smoke up in peace.


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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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