What Legalization Could Mean For DC

What Legalization Could Mean For DC

Washington DC appears to be headed on a collision course with full marijuana legalization according to a recent Marist Poll that shows support at an overwhelming 65%. The measure would effectively allow adults age 21 and over to posses up to two ounces of marijuana and grow up to 6 plants, without a doctor’s recommendation.

Although the possession of marijuana would be legal, the sale of marijuana would still be illegal under the District’s laws. Lawmakers expect that it would take another year after the measure passes to nail down the regulatory framework and tax laws for the industry to thrive. DC Council sat down last Thursday to talk about what the taxing and regulation of marijuana would look like for the city.

Council member Vincent Orange told the Washington Post:

“It could be an opportunity to generate a tremendous amount of tax revenue. But from my point of view, it has to be set up right.”

Council member David Grosso introduced a bill back in September that aimed to tax marijuana in many of the same ways that Colorado has. Under the bill marijuana would be regulated much as alcohol is in the District, even relying on DC’s existing alcohol regulators to police the sale of marijuana.

Grosso said Thursday last that he spent a lot of time reworking the bill to meet public concerns. He allowed for a medical marijuana program, which had been struck from the original bill, to to exist simultaneously. He also accounted for the projected $130 Million in tax revenue, sending significant portions to youth programs and prevention efforts.

If Initiative 71 passes tomorrow, it will be sent to Congress for a 30 day legislative review then would likely take effect in the first few months of 2015. However, unlike Colorado and Washington’s legalization programs it may be more difficult for the Obama Administration to turn a blind eye at the issue.

Maryland Congressman Andy Harris (R) took aim at blocking the decriminalization of marijuana back and June and will take action against Initiative 71 when passed. Harris says, “If legalization passes, I will consider using all resources available to a member of Congress to stop this action, so that drug use among teens does not increase.”

Harris defiantly wants to project his own beliefs on the District, despite DC’s Home Rule which gives residents a say in their own city. Still, Congress has more control over DC than exists for any other state.

The republicans would have the power to take the issue before Congress where DC’s cash is under their control, but a Presidential veto could be the final say on legalization. The timing of the bill is absolutely imperative as Congressional seats begin changing hands this fall. Grosso remains hopeful about the passage of the bill, but reminds us how important it is to get out and vote now:

“We have to move on this while President Obama is in office. I don’t know what happens after that.”

Photo Credit: Glyn Lowe Photoworks

Washington D.C. To Revisit Marijuana Legalization Act Today

Washington D.C. To Revisit Marijuana Legalization Act Today

Councilmember, David Grosso, presented B20-466, the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2013, to three committees last year. Today Thursday October 30 at 11:00am, sections 6,7,8, and 9 of this bill will be revisited by two of those committees.

The Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act permits adults aged twenty-one years and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes. It also establishes regulations for the retailer and producer application processes, licensing and operation as well as for cultivating, processing, packaging, and selling marijuana products. Under this act, marijuana would be regulated in the same manner as alcohol.

The revised sections clarify that marijuana sales are only legal if performed by a state licensed vendor. Tax rates for medical and recreational marijuana sales are also established under these sections with taxes, fees, and forfeitures being collected to form a dedicated marijuana fund that will be used to give back to the community. All excess funds collected will be distributed quarterly among youth, law enforcement, corrections, and behavior health organizations in the District of Columbia.

For now, this may just be a testimony hearing before the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs and the Committee on Finance and Revenue, but it may also be another step toward legitimacy for the retail cannabis industry. The results next week, after residents vote on Initiative 71, a bill which legalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana for of-age adults and personal cultivation in a private residence, will be a sneak peak into the future of marijuana law in the District of Columbia and the rest of the nation.

photo credit: Carlos Gracia

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