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On Friday, more than 50 marijuana and civil rights organizations sent a letter to leaders and congressional officials, asking them to finally allow recreational cannabis sales to begin in Washington, D.C., eight years after voters approved a local legalization ballot measure.
Specifically, the groups – led by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) – say they want to “uphold” the removal of DC language from a spending bill approved by the House last year and circulated as a draft in the Senate. The district is currently prohibited from using its local tax money to implement a regulated marijuana sales system due to the credits endorsement that has been approved annually since 2014.
“It is imperative both for public health, public safety and for congressional support of the district’s right to self-government that the removal of Runner Harris be upheld,” the letter reads, referring to the anti-legalization sponsor. of the rider’s representative. Andy Harris (R-MD).
“Without the ability to regulate marijuana sales, the gray marijuana market thrives despite the need and desire of district leaders and residents to establish a regulatory model,” the groups wrote. “Such a model would free up law enforcement resources to focus on threats to public safety. It would also allow legitimate entrepreneurs to start businesses, create jobs and stimulate economic development in the district. »
“It is of the utmost importance that the District of Columbia be given the same ability as states across the nation that have voted to regulate adult marijuana use and deliver on Initiative 71 promises,” the letter continues. .
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Signatories to the letter include groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Washington Metropolitan Council of the AFL-CIO, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Association of Social Workers, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, NORML, BOWL PAC, Dr. Bronner’s, DC Vote, DC Marijuana Justice, R Street Institute and Weedmaps.
“It’s time for Congress to uphold the District of Columbia’s right to self-determination and lift the covenant prohibiting them from regulating marijuana,” the letter concludes.
Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) thanked the groups for advocating for DC’s right to embrace the cannabis business. She said in November that she was “closer than ever” to lifting the blockade on the cannabis trade in her district.
Thank you to the more than 50 national and DC groups, led by @DrugPolicyOrgwho sent a letter today calling on Congress to remove the endorsement that prohibits DC from using its local funds to market recreational marijuana. #HandsOffDC
Full letter: https://t.co/09UzgGgrDH
— Eleanor #DCStatehood Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) March 4, 2022
While there appears to be a shared interest among House and Senate Democrats in ending the ban on DCs as part of the fiscal year 2022 appropriations session, achieving that goal can be complicated on the logistics plan.
Leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reportedly reached agreement on framework spending legislation after repeatedly extending government funding beyond the original deadline last October through of a series of ongoing short-term resolutions. The last deadline is March 11.
The four committee heads deal with the appropriations would have agreed to continue negotiations on adding or removing existing runners in the future, raising doubts about the prospects of eliminating the DC language this round due to opposition from top Republicans.
Unnecessarily, from the perspective of advocates, President Joe Biden’s own budget proposal sought to maintain the GOP-led ban.
“On the one hand, Congress continues to make progress in advancing federal marijuana reform grounded in racial justice, while simultaneously being responsible for banning the very jurisdiction that led the country to legalize marijuana. marijuana through this lens of being able to regulate it,” said Queen Adesuyi, senior national policy director for the DPA, noted in a press release. “This conflict and this contradiction must end now.”
“Leadership that passes on this historic chance to be on the right side of history – championing both marijuana reform and democracy – would be demoralizing, and a clear sign that there is a stronger commitment to using DC as a bargaining chip only on the values of marijuana justice and self-reliance,” she said. “We look forward to working with them to finally end this injustice and ensure that that the voice and vote of the people of DC are respected.”
Several of the groups behind this new DC letter have separately urged House leaders to introduce legislation this month to legalize marijuana at the federal level – the Opportunity, Reinvestment and Growth Act. erasing marijuana (MORE).
Meanwhile, in DC, lawmakers continue to prepare to enact legislation that would allow the sale of marijuana, while advancing other cannabis-related measures.
Lawmakers held a joint hearing in November on a pair of bills to allow the legal sale of recreational marijuana and to significantly expand the existing medical cannabis program in the nation’s capital.
A provision of the bill that could have led to a broad crackdown on the city’s unregulated recreational cannabis market has been removed, much to the relief of advocates who have criticized the proposed measure on something that would have punished companies that “offer “marijuana in a way that effectively circumvents the local cannabis retail ban.
Possession and donation of marijuana is legal under an initiative approved by voters in 2014, but there is currently no regulated market and people are not allowed to accept any form of compensation for donations.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said last April that local officials were ready to move forward with implementing a legal system for the sale of recreational marijuana in the nation’s capital. as soon as they can get past the last “hurdle” of congressional interference.
Bowser introduced a cannabis trade bill last February, although his measure is not on the agenda for the November hearing alongside Mendelson’s cannabis legalization proposal.
Local marijuana activists have also proposed an amendment to Mendelson’s legalization bill that would allow small business owners to sell cannabis at farmers’ markets. It’s unclear when DC lawmakers will meet again to vote on proposed changes and comprehensive legislation.
Last March, a federal watchdog determined that the congressional endorsement blocking marijuana sales in DC does not prevent local officials from taking procedural steps to prepare for the possible reform, such as holding audiences, even if they can’t pass it yet with the pending blockade.
Last week, a DC Council committee unanimously approved a bill to ban most workplaces from testing job applicants for marijuana before hiring. It would extend previous legislation approved by the DC Council to protect local government employees from discrimination in the workplace because of their use of medical cannabis.
Bowser also recently signed a bill that will expand access to the district’s medical marijuana program in several ways.
Now seniors will be able to self-certify their eligibility for cannabis without having to get a doctor’s referral. The law also extends the deadline for renewing patient registration and creates a one-week medical marijuana tax relief “holiday” that coincides with the unofficial cannabis event known as of 4/20.
This bill also generally expands on previous emergency legislation that the Council approved at the height of the coronavirus pandemic to expand eligibility for enrollment in the medical cannabis program. Registered patients under 65 will continue to be validated until at least September 30.
In 2019, another DC lawmaker proposed a separate medical cannabis reform bill intended to make the patient registration process easier. Instead of having to wait several weeks for regulators to process their medical cannabis approvals, patients would simply file an application with the city’s health department and then be automatically qualified to legally purchase marijuana on an interim basis.
The author of the legislation, General Council Member David Grosso (I), introduced a similar bill in 2017, although this version allows residents to self-certify as marijuana patients at medical purposes – without the need to involve a doctor – by signing an affidavit, and they did not have the stipulation that their qualifications might be rejected later.
Separately, another group of activists announced an effort to pressure local lawmakers to enact broad drug decriminalization, with a focus on promoting harm reduction programs, in the nation’s capital. . A poll released last year found voters strongly in favor of the proposals.
Read the activists’ letter on the DC marijuana trade ban endorsement below:
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