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Washington, D.C. Mayor Plans Legal Marijuana Sales As Congress Shifts

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Legal recreational sales could be coming to the nation’s capital under a plan announced by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on Wednesday.

District of Columbia voters approved a legal cannabis ballot measure in 2014 that allows low-level possession and home cultivation. But, because of a spending bill rider pushed by the Republican Congress, the city is not allowed to use any funds to legalize and regulate the sales of marijuana. As a result, an unregulated gray market of cannabis distribution has cropped up in the city.

But now that Democrats have regained control of the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s midterm elections, Bowser is announcing that she will submit a full marijuana legalization bill to the District of Columbia Council early in 2019.

“We will prepare a tax and regulate scheme to present to the Council at the beginning of the year,” she said in a press conference.

“We have an untenable situation in the District that I believe makes us unsafe,” Bowser argued, referring to the current noncommercial form of legalization that exists in the city. “As long as we have the ability to possess marijuana, which is our law, we also need the ability to procure marijuana legally, which we don’t have now.”

The mayor did not give specifics of the legal cannabis sales legislation she plans to introduce.

In a press release, Democratic Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents D.C. in Congress, said that she will “continue to fight” to remove the marijuana rider and other roadblocks to the city’s autonomy that Republicans in Congress have erected.

Legalization advocates said they would press Congress to let D.C. set its own cannabis laws.

โ€œThe Drug Policy Alliance plans on working diligently with Congress to remove the rider that has unfairly forced residents of the District to operate within a grey marijuana market for far too long,โ€ says Queen Adesuyi, policy coordinator with Drug Policy Alliance. โ€œThe District is unique in that it was one of the first legalization efforts grounded in racial and criminal justice. We plan to work with the District to enact marijuana legalization with that lens as promised throughout the campaign.โ€

The city currently has a handful of medical cannabis dispensaries from which registered patients can buy marijuana.

See the video of Bowser’s marijuana remarks, about 11 minutes into the clip below:

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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