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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

D.C. Council approves bill to eliminate medical marijuana licensing caps, boost property rights, offer tax breaks and more

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Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday approved a bill that would make fundamental changes to the medical marijuana program in the nation’s capital — including by eliminating cannabis business licensing restrictions, providing tax breaks for operators, further promoting social justice and creating new regulated business categories such as utilities. On-site consumption and cannabis cooking lessons.

It would also provide a path for existing “gift” operators who sell non-narcotic items in exchange for “free” marijuana products to enter the licensed market, while enabling officials to crack down on those who continue to operate illegally.

The full D.C. Council passed the legislation, which was amended by the Committee of the Whole earlier in the day, by a 7-4 vote. You must receive a second reading vote by the council at a later date before heading to the mayor’s office.

The measure faced some pushback from lawmakers who support the reform but feel the latest version contains changes that could negatively impact social justice goals while giving existing medical cannabis dispensaries a high priority.

The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act would also legalize that adults can certify themselves as medical marijuana patients. The bill was carried by Council Speaker Phil Mendelsohn (D) on behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).

The Committee of the Whole issued a note before the meeting saying that the latest version “retains the majority of the amendments and additions made by” the Commission on Trade and Economic Development (CBED), who passed the procedure last week. From before from a separate plate like that.

However, the latest version makes “substantial changes in three areas: the definition of a social justice applicant, the revocation of all licenses for new social justice applicants for three years, and the timeline for enforcement against unlicensed institutions,” the new memo states.

Lawmakers have gone back and forth on how to revise the licensing rules for the most efficient D.C., with the introduced version of the legislation proposing a higher cap for dispensaries than is permitted under current law, with an amended version instead seeking the complete repeal of business licensing caps.

As it was passed by the full council, the bill still removes the cap, while giving regulators discretion to set limits.

The change made in the previous committee relates to the tax policy of the cannabis industry. The revised bill contains language that says marijuana companies can deduct taxes under local law that they are prohibited from doing under a federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) law known as 280E.

In addition, the legislation states that people 21 years of age or older who can certify themselves as medical cannabis patients can purchase marijuana from dispensaries without receiving a doctor’s recommendation.

Under a temporary self-certification law that the mayor signed into law this year, medical marijuana patient registrations have continued to rise — with The program added about 1,500 additional patients In September alone.

The action also gives city officials the power to take enforcement action against anyone who “knowingly engages or attempts to engage in the purchase, sale, exchange, or other form of commercial transaction involving cannabis that was not purchased, sold, or exchanged” under the provision of the giveaway in County marijuana law.

However, the timetable for when to take enforcement action has been changed back and forth, with the original version requiring regulators to wait 180 days, the version approved by the Commission last week requiring 225 days and this enacted version significantly narrowing the period to 30 days after The regulators made a decision to apply for a license for a business that is not currently licensed.

The bill aims to promote social justice in the industry by prioritizing business licenses for people who have been disproportionately affected by the drug war. But the relevant provisions were similarly revised throughout its legislative career.

Initially, the legislation stipulated that 50 percent of some licenses should be allocated to stock applicants and existing medical cannabis operators in perpetuity. The revised version previously required a 100 percent allotment to these groups for a certain number of years, depending on the type of license.

Whole Committee He said This last proposal would conflict with the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, so it returned it to 50 percent of licensees for Social Justice applicants. The committee’s memorandum stated that members believed “this situation aside would stand up to legal scrutiny for a number of reasons.”

It further describes modifications to the definition of who qualifies as a social equity applicant, removing and revising certain criteria such as those related to income that are likely to broaden the eligibility pool.

“The commission supports criteria that prioritize returning citizens and their families, as this has a direct relevance to the harms caused by the war on drugs. In addition, the commission supports criteria that will prioritize low- and middle-income residents of the region.” “The committee found that the other criteria included in CBED were either unnecessary or would not promote social justice within the medical cannabis industry in the region, however.”

The proposal further calls for creating a new licensing class for online retailers who would be able to sell marijuana without a physical storefront.

“While some external stakeholders have raised concerns that this class of license is in conflict with the law, the committee is not convinced,” the memo says. “Currently, many medical cannabis dispensaries in the county already allow online pre-order, delivery, or pickup.”

The legislation It was also previously changed to rename the lead regulatory agency, from the Alcoholic Beverages Regulatory Administration (ABRA) to the Alcoholic Beverages and Cannabis Administration (ABC).

Kenya’s CBED Chairman McDuffie (D) strongly opposed the latest revised version at Tuesday’s meeting, arguing that the changes – particularly the regulatory enforcement provisions – could jeopardize equity targets.

“To be clear, we don’t have to move forward with this bill today,” he said. “There is a false sense of urgency about this.”

Advocacy organization I-71 Committee also opposes the legislation, saying in a Facebook post that it “lacks strong social justice language.”

The group added in a press release that it was “disappointed” with the introduction of the bill.

“We deal with multiple elements of the current version of the bill, which significantly reduces the number of Social Equity licenses, distorts the ability of i-71 stores to apply for these licenses, and fails to account for the need for new cultivation centers to supply a potential $600 million industry annually,” Adding that members plan to work with lawmakers on possible revisions ahead of the second reading vote expected on December 20.

Without immediately prioritizing additional licenses for new farming centers, the group said, this bill sets Social Justice applicants for failure.

While many advocates have welcomed legislative efforts to expand access to cannabis in the county, they also continue to push for an end to the federal blockade that has prevented D.C. from creating a regulated market, despite voter approval of an initiative to legalize personal possession and cultivation in 2014. .

After President Joe Biden issued a proclamation in October pardoning Americans who committed federal marijuana possession offenses, as well as people who broke the law in Washington, US Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) The chief called to go further By federal legalizing cannabis and allowing the province to create a commercial market for cannabis and granting clemency on its own.

The congresswoman said the domestic ban continues, which it was It was preserved in the first two budget proposals from Bidenrepresenting “a shocking violation of the D.C.’s home rule by a Democratic administration.”

In Tuesday’s meeting before the Committee of the Whole, one female member thanked her colleagues for “their hard work on this legislation to at least try to solve the mess that Congress has created for us, preventing us from regulating and taxing the recreational use of cannabis as the majority of other states have been able to do.”

A coalition of local, state, and national advocacy organizations recently asked the US Attorney General To officially adopt a no-enforcement policy to allow Washington, D.C. to legalize marijuana sales even in light of continued prohibition in Congress.

A poll published in September showed that D.C. voters strongly support the legalization of marijuana She opposes a crackdown on the cannabis “gifts” market that has emerged in the absence of regulated sales.

Washington lawmakers also recently sent letters to the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, asking them to Remove the knight to prevent the sale of local cannabis As part of the spending legislation for fiscal year 2023.

The House passed the related spending bill for fiscal year 2023 in July, Except for DC’s marijuana ban language. in the Senate Legislation currently on the table From the chair of the Democratic Appropriations Committee he also deleted the knight.

Bowser, Norton, and other city elected officials routinely criticized Congress for singling out the district and denying it the ability to do what an increasing number of states have done without federal intervention.

Norton told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview in July that she was “fairly optimistic” that the rider wouldn’t be included in the final spending package. She added that DC’s self-reliance policy is an “effective workaround” until then.

while, The mayor signed the bill in July Most workplaces are prohibited from firing or penalizing employees for marijuana use.

The reform is designed to build on an earlier measure approved by lawmakers to protect local government employees from Discrimination in the workplace due to their use of medical cannabis.

Congressional lawmakers have refused to put marijuana reform in the defense bill as new details emerge on the SAFE Plus package

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