Anne Roth

D.C. Health Department Backs Retail Cannabis System

Washington D.C.’s Department of Health is recommending taxing marijuana in the District, similar to regulatory models for alcohol and tobacco, according to a report issued by the department.

Initiative 71, D.C.’s legalization legislation, passed in February 2015 but so far no infrastructure has been set up for sales. District residents can possess, grow and give away for cannabis for recreational use, but there are no retail locations. 

Projections from ArcView Market Research and New Frontier estimate the legalized marijuana market in D.C. could be worth $93.6 million by 2020, DCist reported in March. Two years ago, Dr. Yesim Sayin Taylor, an official for the Office of the D.C. Chief Financial Officer, estimated the market could be worth $130 million a year assuming that 122,000 people would buy three ounces of cannabis a year at $350 an ounce.

In their report, the Health Department recommended using some of the funds gained from a comprehensive retail system to strengthen drug treatment and education programs, monitoring tobacco and alcohol use for cannabis users and non-users, and providing information to expecting mothers about the risks of marijuana use while pregnant and breast-feeding.

Kaitlyn Bocker, a policy analyst with the Drug Policy Alliance, is urging D.C. officials to move forward with the Health Department’s proposals “immediately.”

“As DOH’s recommendation recognizes, a regulatory system will increase public health and safety, allow our policy makers to address much needed reforms, and generate tax revenue to fund treatment and education,” she said in a DCist report.

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