Yesterday, Councilman David Grosso introduced a bill to tax and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older in the District of Columbia! Provisions in the bill also include establishing an automatic expungement program for individuals with past marijuana convictions.
While Initiative 71 legalized the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older, Congress has blocked the District from taxing and regulating sales. But, with change in congressional leadership, Councilman Grosso said the prospects of passing legalization legislation are stronger. Mayor Muriel Bowser has also been vocal about her plans to tax and regulate marijuana in the District.
With no lawful place to purchase non-medical cannabis, D.C. has seen a proliferation of "grey market" operators and a significant increase in arrests for the distribution of marijuana. Regulating and taxing the marijuana market will put the market in the hands of licensed businesses, leading to safer outcomes for consumers and the community, while bringing millions of dollars in tax revenue and hundreds of jobs to the District.
It's important your councilmembers hear from as many constituents as possible. Please contact them today! Then, forward this message to your family and friends in D.C.
Early this week, former Republican House Speaker John Boehner announced his support for descheduling marijuana at the federal level. At the same time, he revealed his plans to become advisor to a multi-state marijuana industry firm with dozens of locations. This is a stark departure from his previous stance on marijuana. While in Congress, Boehner voted in favor of legislation that prevented the District of Columbia from implementing its voter-approved medical marijuana program for more than a decade, and was a vocal opponent of legalization.
Marijuana Moment reports:
Boehner, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R), is joining the Board of Advisors of Acreage Holdings, which holds 35 licenses for cannabis businesses across the U.S.
“When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head,” Boehner said. “We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”
In a tweet, Boehner, who did not endorse marijuana law reform while serving as the House’s top official, said he now supports removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, a process known as descheduling.
In a 2011 letter to a constituent, the speaker wrote, “I am unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug. I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”
But now, Boehner says that he and Weld will advise Acreage on navigating confusing and conflicting federal and state marijuana laws.
While Boehner should be commended for seeing reason and adding his voice to those calling for sensible marijuana policy reform, many advocates are concerned that he is set to profit from policies he opposed and is not doing enough to counteract the impact of his words and actions while in office.
MPP's Morgan Fox told The New York Times that Boehner "should be actively working to reform federal marijuana laws to allow states to determine their own policies, rather than just consulting with a business to navigate the conflicts between state and federal law. His positions on the issue while in House leadership most likely slowed progress for marijuana reform legislation, and he owes it to anyone whose life has been negatively impacted by a marijuana arrest to use his considerable influence to make up for that.”
In the District of Columbia, Councilmember David Grosso (I, at large) has introduced a bill, B22-0446, that would allow anyone 21 and over to access a dispensary if they provide a signed affidavit that they are using marijuana for medical purposes and are aware of state and federal marijuana laws. It is being co-sponsored by Robert White (D, at large), Brianne Nadeau (D, Ward 1), and Vincent Gray (D, Ward 7).
This bill would allow many more people to access the regulated dispensary system who are currently forced to shop in the grey market if they are unable to cultivate their own cannabis. It will increase public safety, because disputes in illicit markets are often solved with violence, and protect public health, because consumers will know what they are purchasing. The bill would also give patients a safe, lawful place to consume cannabis outside their home.
Additionally, this bill allows D.C. to move forward in expanding access to cannabis in an environment where Congress is blocking it from setting up adult-use retail stores. It gives people who cannot afford to see a doctor access to this medication and could also facilitate access for people who may be struggling with opioid addiction, for whom studies suggest marijuana can be an “exit drug.”
If you are a D.C. resident, please ask your councilmembers to support this bill.
The Justice Department will continue to be prohibited from interfering in state medical marijuana laws under the federal spending bill passed Thursday in the Senate. The bill has already passed the House, and President Trump has said he will sign it.
The legislation includes a provision that is intended to prevent the department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to arrest or prosecute patients, caregivers, and businesses that are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.
The provision stems from an amendment originally sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and former Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), which was first approved by the House in May 2014. It was approved again by a larger margin in June 2015, then included in the continuing appropriations packages that have funded the federal government since October 2016.
Unfortunately, the spending package approved Thursday also includes a provision that prevents the District of Columbia from regulating the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for adult use. It was originally introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) and approved in 2015, after District voters approved a ballot initiative to make possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older.
MPP's Robert Capecchi released the following statement:
“Congress appears to be growing increasingly comfortable with states adopting their own marijuana policies,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Unfortunately, spending prohibitions like these expire at the end of the fiscal year, so there is still a need for a long-term solution.
“The time is right for Congress to adopt permanent legislation that protects individuals from federal enforcement if they are in compliance with state laws,” Capecchi said. “It is difficult to understand what they’re waiting for. The vast majority of U.S. voters oppose the federal government interfering in state marijuana laws, and there is now near-universal support for legalizing medical marijuana.”
On Election Day, voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada declared an end to the war on marijuana in their states by approving initiatives to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol for adults. This historic event was by far the biggest victory for drug policy reform to date, and will help pave the way for progress around the country.
There are now eight states where marijuana is legal for adults to possess and where cultivation and retail sales are regulated and taxed. Marijuana possession and cultivation are legal in the District of Columbia, but Congress has prevented the city from regulating the non-medical marijuana industry.
This means that marijuana is legal for 66.5 million Americans, or about 21% of the population.
Unfortunately, a similar initiative in Arizona is trailing while the final votes are being counted, but advocates are already preparing to continue the fight in the legislature and possibly at the ballot in coming years.
Support for ending marijuana prohibition is increasing across the nation, according to recent polls. Marijuana initiatives out-performed a number of successful politicians in some states as well. During President-elect Trump's campaign, he voiced support for leaving marijuana policy up to the states. Advocates are hopeful that the next administration will support the will of the people and continue the federal policy of non-interference until Congress is able to pass meaningful marijuana policy reform.
Today is the day! This is the biggest election in marijuana policy reform history, but even if you can't vote on a legalization or medical marijuana ballot initiative today, you could play an important part to make future progress possible in your state.
Before you vote, please check out MPP's voter guides if you live in the following places:
Recently when attempting to lobby for marijuana policy reform in Alabama, MPP legislative counsel Maggie Ellinger-Locke discovered that she would have to travel to the Yellowhammer State and take an ethics class before she could speak with any lawmakers on the subject. This is a clear violation of free speech, and Institute for Justice is helping us fight back.
Alabama Today reports:
At issue is an Alabama law requiring all registered lobbyists to attend an ethics class offered only four times a year and in only one place – Montgomery.
Part of Ellinger-Locke’s job, says IJ Senior Attorney Paul Sherman in a recent op-ed, is to talk with legislators and government officials in nearly a dozen states on ways to make marijuana policy “more just, sensible and humane.”
“Unfortunately for her,” Sherman writes, “all lobbyists in Alabama are required to take an in-person ethics class.” The problem is, Ellinger-Locke lives in Arlington, Virginia and works at the MPP headquarters in Washington DC.
Sherman also points out that mayors, city and county council members, as well as members of local boards of education, are each required to take similar training – a program that could easily be offered online.
Nevertheless, Sherman adds that such a requirement is not only bad public policy but also unconstitutional. That is why IJ filed a First Amendment challenge in federal court.
“If a person wants to talk to an elected official about a matter of public policy,” Sherman concludes, “they shouldn’t have to take a government-mandated class. Instead, the only thing they should need is an opinion.”
We will post updates as they happen.
In an exciting new development, the District of Columbia Department of Health issued a report that, in its conclusion, recommends the legalization of the sale of marijuana within D.C. The 32-page report calls on the District to "[i]mpose state taxes on production, distribution, and sales along with a licensed market participation, age restriction, and prohibitions on advertising and marketing to minors" and to "[u]se current regulatory models for tobacco and alcohol to base legislation to enact effective marijuana controls under District of Columbia laws".
Additionally, the report urges the strengthening of addiction recovery programs, the improvement of marijuana education--especially for expecting and new mothers--and the monitoring of alcohol and tobacco use among both users and non-users of marijuana.
The D.C. Department of Health's recommendation is highly encouraging, but is currently met with obstacles put in place by Congress. Check out our D.C. page to learn more about the situation
You can read the full D.C. Department of Health report here.
The District of Columbia held its Democratic primary yesterday, and the results are mostly good news for supporters of marijuana policy reform. Below are the (unofficial) results, along with the grade the council candidates received in MPP’s voter guide:
Ward 2: Jack Evans (A+) won (unopposed)
Ward 4: Incumbent Brandon Todd (F) beat challenger Leon Andrews (A), 49% to 41%
Ward 7: Challenger Vincent Gray (C+) beat incumbent Yvette Alexander (D), 60% to 33%
Ward 8: Challenger Trayon White (C+) beat incumbent LaRuby May (D), 51% to 42%
In the at-large race, all the candidates received an A or A+ from MPP. Challenger Robert White beat incumbent Vincent Orange 40% to 37%.
As the general election on November 8 approaches, MPP plans to update our voter guide to keep you informed on all the candidates’ positions, so stay tuned!