D.C. Bill Would Allow Formerly Incarcerated To Enter The Medicinal Cannabis Industry

Last week, The Returning Citizens Cannabis Equity Amendment Act of 2020 (B23-0974) was introduced by councilmembers David Grosso (At-Large), Vincent Gray (Ward 7), Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), and Trayon White (Ward 8). The bill intends to allow those who were incarcerated and are now out of prison the ability to work in the medicinal cannabis industry in Washington D.C. Currently, due to the Legalization of Marijuana For Medical Treatment Initiative of 1999, those who were charged with a felony conviction or misdemeanor offense for cannabis cannot be an employee, director, agent, or member of any medicinal cannabis dispensaries or cultivation centers. The language for B23-0974 frames the bill as an amendment to the Legalization of Marijuana For Medical Treatment Initiative of 1999.

“To amend the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1999 to allow returning citizens to have greater participation in the cannabis industry,” the bill reads.

“There is no reason why those who’ve paid their debt to society should be locked out of this industry any longer,” Councilperson White tweeted when he announced the bill would be introduced.

Discussions about cannabis equity and who is left behind by cannabis reform followed after the 2014 announcement that D.C. would legalize cannabis (though it has been prevented over and over again from establishing its own commercial industry) and this bill intends to undo a frequent criticism of cannabis amid the decriminalization era: People who were arrested for something that is now legal (and generally understood as medicine) remained in prison for drug charges and are cut out of the industry now that it is legal. B23-0974 attempts to broadly adjust these restrictions and also intends to incentivize returning citizens to substantially enter the industry. B23-0974 intends to create programs that encourage those who are out of prison (and are now available to work in the cannabis industry thanks to B23-0974) to enter D.C’s medicinal cannabis industry. 

“Establish and implement a program that provides an application fee waiver, technical assistance with the application, and assistance with applying for any required license for applicants seeking a dispensary, cultivation center, and testing laboratory registration which have at least 51% ownership by returning citizens,” the bill reads. “Establish and implement a program that provides an approved applicant for a dispensary, cultivation center, and testing laboratory registration with assistance in developing a business plan and a plan for raising capital for approved applicants that have at least 51% ownership by returning citizens.”

The medicinal cannabis industry in D.C. however requires a great deal of capital to even enter which means that it would be especially tough for returning citizens to raise the funds for entering the medicinal industry.

On Tuesday, October 20 the bill goes to the council’s Committee on Business and Economic Development for review.

Photo by Dan Henson via Shutterstock

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