On Nov. 1, the D.C. Council unanimously passed B21-0210, which includes many improvements to the medical marijuana program, such as: 1) independent laboratory testing will be required, to ensure patients know what they are purchasing; and 2) advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, dentists, and naturopathic physicians, in addition to M.D.s, will be able to recommend medical cannabis.
A few changes were made before the final vote on the bill. One of these was the adoption of Councilmember Grosso’s amendment (initially supported only by Councilmember Robert White) to make the medical marijuana industry more inclusive. Previously, all individuals with a felony conviction or a misdemeanor drug conviction were barred from the industry, disproportionately impacting African Americans, who were more likely to be arrested for drug possession than whites despite similar usage rates. Now, individuals with misdemeanor drug convictions or felony convictions for possession with intent to distribute marijuana will no longer be barred.
There are other provisions that require D.C. to implement an electronic tracking system for medical marijuana purchased in the District before they can take effect. Then, patients will be allowed to visit whichever dispensaries they choose — instead of being limited to one — and patients enrolled in another state’s medical program will be allowed to visit dispensaries in D.C.
Last week, District of Columbia Council Member David Grosso and three of his colleagues made it clear that Congressional bullying wasn’t going to stop them from considering a more rational approach to marijuana. On January 6, they quietly introduced legislation to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.
[caption id="attachment_8454" align="alignright" width="300"] Councilmember David Grosso[/caption]
This sensible proposal comes on the heels of voters’ overwhelming vote for Initiative 71, which will make marijuana possession and limited cultivation legal for adults 21 and older when it becomes effective. It also comes just four weeks after Congress approved a spending bill that prohibits the District from spending any money to enact a law to legalize “recreational marijuana” until at least through this summer.
The Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2015 would create a framework for a legal and responsible marijuana industry, complete with licensed cultivators, product manufacturers, retail stores, and testing labs. Allowing licensed businesses to grow and sell marijuana to adults 21 and older will create jobs, increase tax revenues, and allow D.C.’s law enforcement to direct their focus on more serious matters. Regulating these businesses means D.C. will know who is selling marijuana, under what conditions, where, and to whom.
According to the Washington Post, residents of the nation’s capital who have been convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses could apply to have those criminal records sealed under a bill granted initial approval by the D.C. City Council yesterday.
[caption id="attachment_8171" align="alignright" width="300"] David Grosso[/caption]
D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced the record-sealing bill. He believes it is a matter of fairness to give prior offenders some ability to rid their records of nonviolent offenses now that marijuana possession has been decriminalized in the District and both voters and City Council are considering making marijuana legal for adults.
“People who have had these issues in the past, it never leaves them,” Grosso said. “They have to check the box [indicating a prior conviction]. They can’t get a job. They can’t get public housing. They can’t get financial aid for college.”
Under the terms of the bill, D.C. residents could file a motion to seal their records in the D.C. Superior Court. The motion should be granted unless prosecutors demonstrate that the offense in question remains a crime. If the motion is granted, prosecutors and courts would have to remove public records related to the resident’s arrest, charge, trial, or conviction.
The measure passed 12 to 0 and is up for a second vote set for later this month. According to Grosso and data compiled by the Drug Policy Alliance, it is among the broadest efforts to allow marijuana records to be sealed within the country.
[caption id="attachment_7314" align="alignright" width="175"] Tommy Wells[/caption]
The D.C. Council approved Bill 20-409 (The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013) Tuesday that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in the District. The measure, which is sponsored by Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells and supported by eight of the council's 13 members, is expected to receive final approval at the council's next legislative session.
The measure would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for individuals 18 years of age and older and replace them with a civil fine of $25, similar to a parking ticket. Individuals under the age of 18 who commit a violation would also have their parents notified. The bill also removes penalties for possession of paraphernalia in conjunction with small amounts and specifies that individuals cannot be searched or detained based solely on an officer’s suspicion of marijuana possession. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
The council adopted several amendments that weakened the scope of the bill, including one that would continue to criminalize public use, making the smoking of marijuana in public a misdemeanor that could lead to arrest and jail time, as opposed to a civil violation. An amendment was also passed that would make the odor of marijuana reasonable cause to perform a search of a vehicle.
At-large Council member David Grosso has introduced separate legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.