Councilman Robert White from Washington, D.C. introduced a new marijuana bill to the Council on Friday, October 9, 2020. This cannabis bill would reportedly allow the formerly incarcerated to work in the booming medical marijuana market today.
As of writing, the DCist notes that the current landscape dictates that returning citizens are not allowed to work in the medical cannabis sector. For many former convicts who are in the hiring process, many are fired or are being discriminated against due to their links to the drug.
The move towards such developments come as more cannabis advocates and legislators rally for a legal cannabis market in the District of Columbia. While the state has already voted for the cultivation and possession of low-level marijuana in 2014, Marijuana Moment reports that dispensaries and retail sales of the drug are still largely prohibited.
Apart from Councilman White, four other councilmembers introduced the bill. These are Councilmember David Grosso, Vincent Gray from Ward 7, Brianne Nadeau from Ward 1, and Trayon White, Sr. from Ward 8. Meanwhile, the proposal has also been referred to the Committee on Business and Economic Development.
The five councilmen in the District of Columbia are seeking to repeal a section of the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1999. According to the DCist, A section of this bill currently prevents individuals with convictions or marijuana-related misdemeanor offenses to work as an employee, an agent, a director, or even a member of a medical dispensary or cannabis cultivation firm.
Following the introduction of the proposed bill, the councilmembers are planning to successfully change the stipulation found in the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1999.
In a statement via social networking site Twitter, Councilman White said there is “no reason why those who’ve paid their debt to society should be locked out of this industry any longer.”
Adam Eidinger from DC Marijuana Justice and the person behind Initiative 71 also voiced support for the bill saying, “We’ve generally been asking for rights… People who have served their time should be able to work in this industry regardless of whether they’ve had a past drug conviction, or really, and other conviction.”
Besides repealing the said section and allowing the participation of returning members with previous felony convictions to take part in the cannabis industry, the bill aims to launch two programs designed to encourage former convicts to immerse themselves by being owners and establishing cannabis businesses.
Marijuana Moment states that one of the programs will provide individuals with an “application fee waiver, technical assistance with the application, and assistance with applying for any required license” for former convicts who want to obtain a license for businesses and establishments that are owned by a majority or 51% of returning citizens.
In addition, the councilmembers plan to offer another program that would help the formerly incarcerated feel more empowered by giving “assistance in developing a business plan and a plan for raising capital for approved applicants.” Similar to the above-mentioned initiative, Marijuana Moment states that those who qualify for this program should be businesses that are at least 51% owned by the formerly incarcerated.