The District of Columbia (D.C.) Council met on Tuesday, November 2, 2021, to approve an emergency bill that aimed to provide aid to MMJ dispensaries in the city. The bill aimed to extend the medical cannabis cards of patients from March 2020 to February of this year, reports the Washington Post.
The action from the city leaders come as medical marijuana dispensaries experienced a steep decline in sales and business due to patients having expired medical marijuana licenses and failing to renew these during the pandemic, notes the DCist.
The emergency bill was introduced to the D.C. Council by Chairman Phil Mendelson. According to High Times, the motivation behind the introduction of the bill came from the public health emergency experienced by the city.
In a statement via a memorandum to the council last October, Mendelson said that the public health emergency in question saw “roughly 6,216 patient registration for the District’s medical cannabis program [expiring] in a very short period, reducing the number of registered patients in the program from nearly 12,000 to approximately 5,500.”
The council unanimously agreed and voted their approval for an emergency bill that addressed a number of issues concerning medical marijuana use in the city. These include the numbers of registered patients and users dropping drastically over the summer.
In attempts to address these, the Washington Post said that the legislation all voted in favor of extending the validity of medical marijuana cards that expired in March 2020 until February 2021.
Moreover, the emergency bill also recognized the ability of a patient to purchase and carry eight ounces of cannabis on them at all times. This amount has been increased from the initial four ounces allowed by the city.
Lastly, the bill also saw the council finally allowing ABRA to issue medical cannabis cards to patients that last for two years, instead of the former annual registration it required, notes the Washington Post.
According to Marijuana Moment, one day prior to the council meeting, a provision of the Washington, D.C. marijuana bill was removed. The provision in question would have allowed authorities to conduct a city-wide crackdown on the gifting culture observed in the city when it came to recreational cannabis, especially as this is not yet legally sold in the District of Columbia.
Since selling recreational cannabis is still not allowed in D.C., there are stores that have found loopholes around this by selling products such as shirts for higher prices, then providing cannabis to customers in exchange, reports High Times.
In relation to the above-mentioned gifting culture, Mendelson discussed that the “gifting” of cannabis to customers by unregulated shops has led numerous medical marijuana dispensaries to suffer.
High Times reveals that the provision removed from the bill “would have ramped up civil enforcement against marijuana ‘gifting’ stores and delivery services, which have grown in number in recent years and have been accused of stealing business from the regulated medical marijuana program.”
Activists have strongly opposed this measure, saying that the provision only furthers the cannabis sales prohibition that is currently in place, says Marijuana Moment.
There could be hope for legal cannabis sales in the city with Harris rider being taken out of the appropriations bill introduced in the Senate last October, shares High Times.