Washington D.C. politicians have officially mobilized efforts to move forward with establishing a regulatory body to license dispensaries and oversee a retail marijuana market in the District, despite the fact that Congress says no. In less than 30 days, voters in Washington D.C. will know whether Congress will block the marijuana legalization measure or allow it pass.
Last November, voters in the District of Columbia approved Initiative 71, legalizing cannabis possession, cultivation and transfer for adults aged 21 and older. Although initiative 71 effectively legalized marijuana, it did not include provisions to establish and regulate a retail marijuana market. It did, however, leave the option open for the local council to establish a system for regulating and licensing recreational dispensaries within the District.
Councilman, David Grosso, had already started with presenting legislation and earning committee approval to move forward with this process when certain members of Congress opposed, flexed, and essentially blocked the creation of the retail market in D.C. This was accomplished by attaching a rider to the federal spending bill which banned the use of federal funds and local fees to establish the regulatory system.
At first, it appeared as though the hands of politicians in D.C. had been tied. Then, in the first week of 2015, Washington D.C.’s new Mayor, Muriel Bowser, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” anchor, Chuck Todd, that it will be important to respect the will of the voters and defend legal marijuana in the District. In the same interview, Bowser said that her team would be sending legislation up the chain soon, but she did not specify a plan of action.
The legislation Bowser spoke of, to tax and regulate cannabis in the same manner as alcohol, sponsored by Grosso and four others, was filed just days later. Grosso told U.S. News that he feels confident in this decision to introduce this bill, and elaborated in the statement,
“I think we’re on the path to seeing this bill enacted. By moving this bill forward, we’re directly confronting Congress.”
This kind of defiance is relatively unexplored territory in the District. Washington D.C. was originally established to serve as the seat of the Federal Government, and therefore was not given statehood. As more and more people with voting rights, who have nothing to do with government operations make the District their home, however, it seems to be moving away from what it once was. In the same “Meet the Press” interview, Mayor Bowser spoke of plans to establish a full democracy for the people of Washington D.C., and this just may be the beginning of her plans for change.
photo credit: Forbes