The Washington, D.C. City Council has scheduled a public hearing next month to consider legislation to allow adult-use cannabis sales in the district, DCist reports. D.C. voters approved broad cannabis legalization in 2014 but rolling out legal sales has been blocked by federal law due to the fact that the Capitol city is under the purview of federal policies and gets its funding from the federal government.
According to the report, even scheduling the hearing is notable as in past years Attorney General Karl Racine warned city officials that the congressional ban on cannabis covered the act of holding a public debate on the proposal. That changed earlier this year, when the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), responding to a query from Republican Rep. Andy Harris (Maryland), said that the city council could legally debate and even pass a bill legalizing cannabis sales; however, GAO said the congressional ban would only stop Mayor Muriel Bowser from signing any bill into law.
Last summer, House Democrats managed to remove the six-year-old congressional prohibition on D.C. allowing legal cannabis sales, but a final vote on scrapping the so-called Harris Rider is likely to be delayed until later this year, because of the broader fight on Capitol Hill around federal spending.
The Harris Rider blocks D.C. officials from using local tax revenue for adult-use cannabis sales.
The bill that will be considered by the council, which is sponsored by Chairman Phil Mendelson, includes social-equity provisions, setting aside some industry licenses for individuals most impacted by the War on Drugs or those who reside in low-income areas, the report says. The proposal would also direct half of the cannabis-derived tax revenues to a Community Reinvestment Program Fund that would invest in economic development, homeless prevention, support for citizens recently released from incarceration, and legal assistance in areas with high poverty, unemployment, and gun violence. The proposal also includes expungement provisions for cannabis crimes.
Virginia lawmakers earlier this year approved adult-use cannabis reforms and Democratic leaders in Maryland are seeking to put the issue to voters next year.
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