Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has introduced a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis sales across the U.S. capital.
D.C. residents can legally grow marijuana plants and possess up to three ounces of cannabis after Initiative 71 was approved by 64.8% of voters in 2014. However, the legislation did not authorize legal sales of marijuana for recreational purposes and that has left the District in limbo.
People living in D.C. often resort to using home delivery services, which circumnavigate the ban by selling hats, juices, art, and other goods and throwing in marijuana as a free gift in the same transaction. Others simply obtain medical marijuana cards by any means possible and buy cannabis designed for medicinal use from dispensaries, or they embark upon cannabis tourism to states where recreational sales are legal.
But D.C cannot tax marijuana sales and it is missing out on the economic benefits that several U.S. states enjoy. “We want to be able to regulate, we want to be able to make sure we are collecting our fair share in taxes, we want to invest those taxes in ways that affect communities that have been disproportionately affected, and we want to train and hire D.C. residents,” said Bowser in an interview with The Washington Post.
Legalizing recreational cannabis use in the U.S. capital would represent a symbolic development for the nation’s marijuana industry. Federal law still prohibits recreational cannabis sales and a provision in the federal budget prevents the District from legalizing adult-use cannabis.
The mayor faces an upward struggle, but she appears bullish and determined. Her bill would expand the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration and task it with regulating the recreational cannabis industry in D.C. Eight medical marijuana cultivation centres dotted about the city would also be able to grow cannabis for recreational use.
Bowser wants to charge a 17% tax on marijuana sales and her bill would also seal the criminal records of people with marijuana possession convictions and allow them to work in the industry.
The federal government is under pressure to follow in the footsteps of countries like Canada and Uruguay by legalizing recreational cannabis use, but it has not caved in to the demands. Ten states now permit adult-use cannabis, but none of them are close to D.C and Bowser is now on an intriguing collision course with the government.