Washington, D.C. City Council has planned a public hearing next month on November 19 to consider legislation to permit recreational-use marijuana sales in the district. According to DCist, D.C. voters approved broad marijuana legalization in 2014 but rolling out legal sales has been blocked by federal law since the Capitol city is under the purview of national policies and receives federal government funding. Per the report, just scheduling the hearing is a big moment for the state. In past years, Attorney General Karl Racine cautioned the city officials that the congressional ban on marijuana covered holding a public debate on the proposal.
That all changed earlier in 2021, however, when the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), replying to an inquiry from Republican Representative Andy Harris, said the council could legally debate and even pass a bill legalizing marijuana sales. However, the GAO also noted that the congressional ban would only stop Mayor Muriel Bowser from signing any bill into law. Last summer, House Democrats were able to get rid of the congressional six-year-old prohibition on D.C. permitting legal marijuana sales. Still, a final vote on removing the ban, known as the Harris Rider, is likely to be delayed until later on this year due to the pervasive and expansive fight on Capitol Hill surrounding federal spending.
According to the report, the legislation that will go before the council, sponsored by Chairman Phil Mendelson, includes social-equity provisions and plans for setting aside some industry licenses for individuals most impacted by the War on Drugs or those who reside in low-income areas. The proposition would also direct half of the marijuana-derived tax revenues to a Community Reinvestment Program Fund. It would invest in economic development, support for citizens recently released from prison, homeless prevention, legal assistance in locations with high poverty, unemployment, and gun violence. The proposition also includes expungement provisions for marijuana crimes. This hearing is an impressive feat for the cannabis community, especially the D.C. cannabis community, as well as marijuana reform in general.