A First Look At Washington D.C.’s Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021

On Friday Feb. 26, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser sent the Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021 to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and the rest of the council. The Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021 would allow commercial, regulated cannabis sales in D.C.—something that has eluded D.C. since 2014 when voters legalized cannabis. Back then, despite cannabis being legalized, commercial sales were prevented due to D.C.’s lack of statehood which enabled the then-Republican-controlled Senate to use a congressional budget rider to prevent D.C. from using federal funds to regulate cannabis.

Now that Democrats successfully flipped the Senate in January, it has been presumed that commercial cannabis sales would likely be in the District and Bowser’s bill and an accompanying letter make that even more imminent. 

Last year, The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) formally took over the medical cannabis program from the Department of Health, making it easier for commercial sales to be enacted. The Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021 expands upon Bowser’s 2019 Safe Cannabis Sales Act.

“District voters have voiced their support of legalizing adult cannabis sales on several occasions. Now is the time to take marked steps to fully legalize adult cannabis sales in the District of Columbia,” Bowser writes in the letter, obtained by The Outlaw Report.

The letter describes many of the details of The Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021 which Bowser describes as “revolutionary.” The bill, which The Outlaw Report also obtained, includes a number of ways to assist those in the District who were harmed by the racist war on drugs—and specifically, the disproportionate criminalization of Black residents in D.C. for cannabis use and distribution. 

Those include the automatic expungement of records for many kinds of cannabis convictions, described in the bill as charges “where the lead, main, or top charge involves the possession of marijuana or possession with the intent to distribute marijuana only unless.” Exceptions include those who sold cannabis to a minor; were also charged with a gun offense; and were charged with “more than 1,000 cannabis plants or more than 1,000 pounds of dry cannabis or its equivalent in liquid or other form.” 

Additionally, the bill as proposed makes it easier for people who have been incarcerated to own or work at a cannabis business. It provides those who were formerly incarcerated due to misdemeanor or felony convictions the ability to receive a license to manage or work in a cannabis business. Tax revenue generated by cannabis sales will be reinvested in specific wards, Bowser writes, to “benefit those who have been most negatively impacted by the war on drugs.”

For example, the bill allots, “five hundred thousand dollars to the Department of Small and Local Business Development Dream Grants program to provide business development support to the growth of cannabis microbusinesses with fewer than five employees located in Ward 7 or 8 for which residents of those wards comprise 50% or more of the ownership of the business.” Wards 7 and 8 are majority Black districts (both wards are around 92% Black) where residents have been harassed and targeted by Metropolitan Police—including its notorious Gun Recovery Unit—for years.

“The proposed bill creates a pathway to the middle class for those who have been shut out from entering the cannabis market,” Bowser writes in the letter. “The Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021 would create a social equity delivery license for marginalized groups; providing them with the exclusive right to deliver cannabis in the District for two years. The proposed bill also seeks to level the playing field by awarding preference points to returning citizens or District residents arrested or convicted of a cannabis offense or to cannabis certified business enterprises or veteran owned business enterprises applying for certain types of cannabis licenses.” 

Read Bowser’s press release about the bill here and view the Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021 bill below.

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