D.C. Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Eliminating Licensing Caps Becomes Law Following Congressional Review!

Following a period of congressional scrutiny, a Washington, D.C. bill that would fundamentally alter the medical marijuana program in the nation’s capital was signed into law on Wednesday.

The measure contains measures like removing restrictions on cannabis business licensing, giving tax relief to operators, advancing social fairness, and establishing new authorized business categories like cannabis culinary schools and on-site consumption facilities.

Also, it gives current gifting businesses a means to enter the permitted market by trading non-cannabis goods for free marijuana products, while simultaneously giving authorities more power to take action against those who continue to operate unlawfully.

The bill from D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson was approved in December, and Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) signed it in January. It then went before Congress for a review period, as is the case with any legislation passed locally in the District of Columbia, during which lawmakers had the option to revoke it but opted not to.

Adults can self-certify as medical marijuana patients, according to the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act. This reform is even more necessary in light of the fact that Congress passed an appropriations bill with a contentious rider that prevents the District from establishing a system of controlled, adult-use cannabis commerce, despite the House and Senate have previously excluded it from funding legislation.

Despite that rider, D.C. legislators re-filed a measure to allow marijuana sales in January. The congressional rider does not prevent local officials from taking procedural actions to get ready for the eventual reform, such as holding hearings, according to a federal oversight agency’s determination from the previous year.

ALSO READ: Washington House Panel Approves Senate-Passed Bill To Allow Interstate Cannabis Commerce!

D.C. Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Eliminating Licensing Caps Becomes Law Following Congressional Review!

Regarding the recently passed medical cannabis expansion, the legislation was revised and no longer includes a cap, though it does establish a process for regulators to set caps or moratoriums on the issuance of cultivation center, retailer, or internet retailer licenses. The legislation originally proposed a higher cap on dispensaries than is permitted under current law.

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The enforcement actions that regulators will be allowed to take against unlicensed marijuana operators, including those who have utilized the District’s gifting policy to bypass laws, are covered by another amendment that was adopted prior to adoption.

The time frame for when enforcement action can be taken has fluctuated back and forth as the bill has moved through Council committees. The original version required regulators to wait 180 days, the most recent version significantly reduced the window to 30 days, and the currently enacted legislation states that enforcement action can’t be taken for at least 315 days after the bill’s enactment.

The time frame for unlicensed firms to apply for a license has been increased from 60 to 90 days, and they can now also do so for cultivation center permits. Moreover, a procedure for licensing applicants to challenge license denials was added to the measure.

ALSO READ: Michigan Attorney General Pushes Congress To Pass Marijuana Banking Bill After Issuing Warrants For Dispensary Break-Ins!

D.C. Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Eliminating Licensing Caps Becomes Law Following Congressional Review!

Significantly, the Act also states that marijuana firms may deduct taxes under local law that they are not allowed to do so under the section of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulation known as 280E that prohibits them from doing so.

The law as it has been signed makes the temporary self-certification regime, which has been in place and allows adults 21 and older to become medical cannabis patients and purchase marijuana from shops without a doctor’s referral, permanent. The number of people registering as medicinal marijuana patients has risen significantly under the current temporary law, which the mayor signed last year.

The Act prioritizes business licenses for those who have been disproportionately affected by the drug war in order to improve social fairness in the industry. But during the legislative process, the pertinent clauses have undergone comparable revisions.

Initially, the measure required that equity applicants and current medical cannabis operators receive 50 percent of specific licenses on an ongoing basis. Depending on the license type, the previously updated version mandated that 100 percent be set aside for those organizations for a specific amount of years.

As written into law, it has since returned to the 50% threshold, with social equity applicants being given priority for all new retailers, internet retailers, couriers, cultivation centers, and manufacturer licenses. No, later than May 1, 2023, regulators must make applications available to new licensees.

Under one clause of a Mendelson amendment, existing medicinal cannabis growing facilities and dispensaries will be able to vertically integrate.

The proposal also asks for the development of a new type of license for online retailers that wish to sell marijuana but lack a physical location.

The main regulatory body’s name is changed from Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration as part of the legislation (ABC).

Despite voters’ approval of a measure to legalize possession and home growing in 2014, activists have praised legislative moves to increase cannabis access in the District while simultaneously calling for an end to the federal ban that has hindered the city from creating a regulated market.

Nevertheless, that attempt was unsuccessful since Congress passed a final budget agreement before the start of the current session that retains the rider despite the fact that both the House and the Senate had removed it in their separate versions last year.

U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) urged President Joe Biden to go further by federally legalizing cannabis and allowing the District to create a commercial cannabis market and grant clemency on its own. This came after President Biden issued a proclamation in October pardoning Americans who had violated local and federal laws regarding marijuana possession.

The congresswoman claimed that the continued local restriction, which was upheld in each of Biden’s first three budget proposals, is a disturbing example of how a Democratic administration has violated D.C. home rule.

Recent requests for the U.S. attorney general to formally adopt a non-enforcement policy to permit the District to legalize marijuana sales despite the still-in-effect congressional ban came from a combination of local, state, and national advocacy groups.

According to a survey conducted in September, voters in Washington, D.C., firmly favor the legalization of marijuana and oppose any efforts to suppress the cannabis gifting industry, which has sprung up in the absence of regulated sales.

Bowser, Norton, and other city officials have frequently chastised Congress for singling out the District and denying it the opportunity to carry out state-level initiatives without intervention from the federal government.

In a phone interview with the media in July, Norton expressed her optimism that the rider will not be incorporated into the final spending plan. She continued by saying that until then, the D.C. self-certification approach is a useful solution.

Meanwhile, a law prohibiting dismissal or other forms of retaliation against employees for marijuana use was signed by the mayor in July.

The change is intended to expand on a previous rule that lawmakers passed to shield employees of local governments from being treated unfairly at work because they consume medical cannabis.


Mohit Kumar

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