This article is part of a three-part series that summarizes notable moments in cannabis from 2019 for Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.
Two New Dispensaries
2019 started off with the opening of the first medical dispensary located east of the Anacostia River. In January 2019, Linda Greene is leading the new dispensary, called Anacostia Organics, with a background as former Mayor Marion Barry’s chief of staff when he was Ward 8 councilmember. The Washington Post also reported that Green serves as one of Bowser’s appointees to the Historic Preservation Review Board and is the ex-girlfriend of former mayor and current Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent C. Gray.
By August, a second dispensary opened east of the river, called Cannabliss. This marks the city’s seventh dispensary since D.C. legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2013. The founder of Cannabliss is Norbert Pickett, a former basketball player, sports executive, and Hollywood producer.
The Bill That Wants Recreational Cannabis Legalized, and the Federal Spending Bill That Squashed Its Dreams (For Now)
Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced the Safe Cannabis Sales Act in May of 2019 to legalize recreational marijuana use. The purpose of this bill is to create a regulatory scheme for the cultivation, manufacture, and sale of cannabis in the District.
If approved, all cannabis products sold would be taxed at 17 percent with 100 percent going towards housing programs. D.C.’s medical cannabis program would also transfer from the Department of Health to the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration, a proposed rename of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration.
The sale of cannabis for recreational use won’t come any time soon, though. In December 2019, Congress passed a $1.3 trillion federal spending bill that included a prohibition on recreational sales. The prohibition was originally enacted in 2015, sponsored by Rep. Andy Harris. DCist reported that the ban in the recent federal spending bill was not found in the House’s version of the measure. The Senate version included the ban of any bill legalizing or regulating marijuana sales, an act which Mayor Muriel Bowser later described in a tweet as “ridiculous.”
DPW “Zero Tolerance” Policy No More
After several months of employees in the Department of Public Works (DPW) being told that there was a “zero tolerance” policy on taking part in the District’s medical marijuana program, Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a mayoral order in September 2019 providing sick leave to employees with medical conditions warranting the use of cannabis during the workday, with the approval of their supervisor.
The D.C. government continues to maintain policies against being intoxicated at work, but cannabis use cannot prevent an individual from attaining or keeping a government job. City agencies also cannot create their own policies on employee cannabis use.
The order reads, “The District government does not endorse the use of cannabis as a healthful activity, any more than it endorses alcohol or tobacco use, but it recognizes that there is a sphere of personal freedom for adult employees, who are allowed under District law to possess and use cannabis.”
WAMU reports that those whose job duties could result in harm or death to themselves or others are still subject to randomized testing and are barred from medicinal or recreational cannabis use.
Cannabis in Federally Assisted Housing
D.C. Del. and Congressional Cannabis Caucus member Eleanor Holmes Norton hopes to make cannabis use legal in public housing and Section 8 housing.
Currently, tenants in federally assisted housing can be evicted for cannabis use, but Norton introduced the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act of 2019. This would permit cannabis use in federally assisted housing if it is in compliance with state law. If it becomes law, the Department of Housing and Urban Development may not prohibit or discourage the use of marijuana in federally assisted housing if such use is in compliance with state law.
In a statement, Norton said, “Increasingly, Americas are changing their views on marijuana, state by state, and it is time that Congress caught up with its own constituents.
The region lost a popular cannabis-review site in October 2019. Joe Tierney shut down his blog, titled The Gentleman Toker, after three years of providing reviews on cannabis strains and guides on where to buy weed in Maryland, Virginia, D.C., and other cities, such as Boston. In a blog post, Tierney stated that he won’t support medical cannabis if it is in the hands of “commercial cannabis” or “the black market.”
He wrote, “Most of the people in charge of BOTH MARKETS have no idea what they’re doing and won’t stop as long as it keeps selling.” In an interview with Washingtonian, Tierney credited his heightened concern on the ongoing vaping health crisis.
While telling Washingtonian that he still consumes a joint or two a day, he is quoted, saying, “I don’t think it’s safe to consume cannabis anywhere after all of my travels.” What lays ahead for Tierney is unknown, though he ended his blog post saying that he “figured out what else I could do. Stay tuned, baby!”