The midterms are over and a switch to Democratic control of the U.S. House of Representatives could finally allow for regulated adult-use cannabis sales in Washington D.C., The Washington Post reports.
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced following her re-election on Tuesday that she will propose plans next year for a taxed-and-regulated cannabis marketplace in the District.
“We will prepare a tax-and-regulate scheme to present to the council at the beginning of the next year. … We have an untenable situation in the District. 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.” — Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, in a statement
D.C. voters approved adult-use legalization in 2014 but sales have been blocked by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Specifically, Maryland Rep. Andy Harris (R) pushed for a rider that blocked the city from spending federal funds on reducing cannabis penalties or implementing pro-cannabis policies. Rep. Harris’ amendment has been attached to federal spending bills since 2015. The amendment was later expanded to include all funds.
The amendment has infuriated D.C. voters, who approved legalization by an overwhelming 65 percent majority but have been powerless to prevent Rep. Harris’ interference (only his constituents in Maryland have the power to vote him out).
The District’s local government remains overseen by Congress. Until 1973, in fact, it was completely governed by Congress but the Home Rule Act passed that year handed some governance over to a mayor and thirteen-person council. Congress, however, maintains oversight power for any laws passed in the district.
Today, District residents can grow their own cannabis on private property and can gift up to an ounce to others — selling or bartering for cannabis, however, remains illegal.
Legislation has been introduced by District Council Member David Grosso to allow the city to license cannabis retailers, but there remains uncertainty about whether the GOP-controlled Senate will let it fly. The District’s non-voting House of Representatives member Eleanor Holmes Norton said the Senate “doesn’t seem to care much” — but that could change now that political power has been re-arranged in the House.
Grosso said that, if there is significant pushback from the Senate, he believes the District of Columbia could use that pressure to campaign for statehood.
A looming budget deadline could allow for regulation legislation as early as next month, but many don’t expect change until next year’s budget deadline on October 1, 2019.