We’ve reached the next key milestone in green US revolution.
The capital of DC might be at the brink of fully legalizing marijuana. Major Muriel Bowser has presented a bill poised to clear the way for that long-awaited outcome.
The bill is called “Safe Cannabis Sales Act,” and it’s set to enter the consideration procedure in the DC Council.
This comes four years after voter-approved Initiative 71. It granted users the right to possess marijuana for recreational and medical purposes. Alas, opposing political forces managed to impede the development of a functional legal system for marijuana in DC.
There might be a few hurdles remaining, but maneuvering around them shouldn’t be too hard.
Most people recognize the many merits associated with sensible marijuana regulation. Decision-makers feel the pendulum swinging in direction of legalization as well.
Here is what’s taking place as we speak.
Brave New World of Legislation
The Act is set to enable DC to join 10 other states with legalized recreational marijuana.
The main goal is to establish a clear system for regulation, sale, and taxation of recreational cannabis.
It will include seed-to-shelf tracking and should provide much more clarity and safety. Proponents of legalization argue Initiative 71 was partial victory, a half measure. It only allowed low-levels of possessions and home cultivation.
An additional problem was many people slipping through the legal cracks. They would head to the illegal market in order to purchase the desired products. This was all due to lack of any legal dispensaries.
The “gifting economy” flourished as a result, alongside more sinister activities.
Well, the Bill recognizes this reality and aims to push users back to the lawful zone. It promotes consumer safety because everyone will know exactly what they’re buying. No more clandestine pesticides and chemicals posing health risks.
Besides, we all now illegal drugs induce violence and other community problems. With marijuana out of the nefarious corridors, the situation is likely to improve dramatically.
Another major selling point is equity. Enforcing the Act could create a lot of jobs and revenue for communities. In particular, this is seen as a game-changer for neighborhoods disproportionately ravaged by criminalization.
Namely, the proposed tax on all cannabis products in DC is 17%. The plan is to invest it in affordable housing for the most vulnerable and impoverished.
Basic Workings of System
Many people see the Act as a means to averting public safety hazard.
Things will be much easier for both consumers and entrepreneurs. But, there are a few legal caveats to be mindful of.
First off, buyers need to be 21 years old and possess proper identification. Only under these two conditions can one enter a dispensary and buy weed products.
Secondly, consumption will be prohibited in certain public spaces. Think in terms of parks, sidewalks, schools, and anywhere tobacco ban applies.
Thirdly, there’s a limit on daily purchases. You can buy only 1 ounce of flowers, 5 grams of concentrates, and 16 ounces of edibles. The weight limit is the highest for liquid products— 72 ounces.
Moving on, entrepreneurs will be able to qualify for five types of licenses:
- Off-premise retailer
- Testing facility
These operators will be integral to the emerging ecosystem of legal marijuana in DC. They will join the District’s own eight medical marijuana cultivation centers.
Application for licenses will be limited by consumer demand. It will first begin for those that already have medical marijuana permission. Licenses are valid for three years, after which they are eligible for renewal.
Another rule to heed is 60% of licensed employees and license owners will have to be DC residents.
What Happens Next?
Next on the move is DC Council.
The Major invested it with the responsibility to dictate a schedule and “get things done”. The body will also hold necessary hearings.
But, the trajectory isn’t that straightforward, as it clashes with the still-strong War on Drugs tendencies.
The city’s unique constitutional status had enabled US Congress to intervene. In the past, it prevented DC from using its own money to fund the tax-and-sale program.
Let’s also not forget Attorney General Karl Racine. He previously warned the Council not to go through with the Bill. After Democrats assumed control of the House in November, however, this problem may have vanished.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning Congress has a say in the future of the bill.
The truth is not everyone is keen on opening the floodgates. In fact, at least one congressman is opposed to this course of action. Andy Harris appealed to Major to change the course, citing Federal Law on marijuana.
He also proposed federal spending rider to an appropriation bill. It’s unlikely he’ll be successful in tying local officer’s hands again. He didn’t even bother raising his voice on Tuesday during Democratic-lead Committee session.
Hence, we think that despite the friction, we should soon be in the clear. Basic preparatory steps by council members are to follow and set the groundwork for the next stage.
They will revolve around removing all remaining obstacles and implementing a fully-fledged legal sales program. You can already start looking for the best deals.
Better Days for Marijuana in DC ahead
The Act will put an end to the era of continued disorder in the cannabis marketplace.
A tax-and-regulate system comes in place of uncertainty and risks. Dispensaries will open and freely operate within boundaries of the law. Consumers will not be stuck in the legal limbo of the gray market.
Yes, some political actors aren’t looking kindly at efforts of Major and Council. We could even see a political showdown between the federal government and the capital.
But, the locomotive of legalization can hardly come to a halt. We are very close to opening a whole new chapter for marijuana in DC.
If that happens, cannabis possession will not be a pathway to prison anymore. The act will support public safety and equity while bringing in tax revenue. That could be a win-win for everyone, except vocal minority hostile to legalization.
Make sure to check out our news & culture section for other cannabis-related topics and insight. May your days be filled with green bliss.