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D.C. Council Chairman Mendelson Releases Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Act of 2021


There are now dueling bills to establish a regulated cannabis market in Washington D.C. On Friday, Feb. 26, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released The Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021 and on Monday, Mar. 1, DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and councilmembers Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, Christina Henderson, Kenyan McDuffie, Brianne Nadeau, and Brooke Pinto released the Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Act of 2021.

“This legislation is the culmination of over a year of work by my office and external stakeholders,” Mendelson said in a press release. “It creates a comprehensive regulatory framework for the cultivation, production, and sale of recreational cannabis and most significantly, this bill centers reinvestment and opportunity for people and communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.”

Both Bowser and Mendelson have hyped their own bills with Bowder calling The Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021 “revolutionary,” and Mendelson describing his bill in the press release as, “the most comprehensive, progressive, and equitable legislation to regulate the sale of recreational Cannabis in the District of Columbia.”

In 2014, when voters legalized cannabis, commercial sales did not also happen because of D.C.’s lack of statehood and the then-Republican-controlled Senate used a congressional budget rider to prevent D.C. from using federal funds to regulate cannabis. But as of January, the Senate has flipped and Democrats are in control and it seemed like it was only a matter of time before D.C. had commercial cannabis sales.

The Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Act of 2021 not only allows for a commercial cannabis market but introduces a number of programs and funds that would address issues of equity and begin to repair the damage done to D.C.’s Black residents due to the racist war on drugs. Mendelson’s bill involves “a Social Equity program that mandates at least half of all licenses to be set aside for Social Equity applicants,” and a “Community Reinvestment Program Fund that would provide grants to organizations addressing issues such as economic development, homeless prevention, youth development and civil legal aid in areas hardest hit by the drug wars.” There is also a Cannabis Equity and Opportunity Fund that would help Social Equity Applicants with financial assistance.

“[The Cannabis Equity and Opportunity Fund] is especially important given that traditional financing options are unavailable for cannabis and especially difficult for social equity applicants. Thirty percent of tax revenues from cannabis sales would be deposited into this fund,” Mendelson’s press release explains.

Additionally, the bill would automatically expunge cannabis arrests and convictions, allow banks in D.C. to work with cannabis licenses, and “protections for District residents who legally possess and consume cannabis pursuant to the Act so that they do not lose benefits, employment, or access to other critical resources.”

For a rundown of Bowser’s Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021 as well as the full text, click here.

You can read Mendelson’s Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Act of 2021 below.

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