In the District’s retail marijuana market, marijuana is available from two separate and quite different establishments: carefully regulated medical marijuana dispensaries and so-called “gifting” establishments that provide unregulated marijuana free of charge as an add-on to a greatly marked-up retail sale.
The laws regarding the dispensaries have been gradually and painstakingly established by the Council across many years, with careful attention being paid to health, safety, and equity in regards to dispensary locations, ownership, staffing, and inventory. In contrast, since the “gifting” establishments were never envisioned by the Initiative that legalized marijuana in DC, they stand completely unregulated on all of the aforementioned critical criteria. This absence of regulation has not just left broad question marks regarding the merchandise, business practices, and finances of these establishment, it has also provided a distinct financial advantage to the so-called “gifting” businesses.
In an effort to level the playing field for the fully legal and carefully conceived medical marijuana dispensaries, at its most recent Legislative Meeting the Council took emergency legislative action that allows any DC resident to self-certify their need for medical marijuana. Previously, any potential user of medical marijuana had to seek certification of their need from a list of specific medical professionals, which cost the user both time and money. From the medical marijuana dispensaries’ perspective, their customer base, previously limited to only those District residents who took the time and spent the money to receive this certification, will now expand to all DC residents.
This emergency measure will take effect immediately upon signature by the Mayor, for a period of 90 days. Parallel temporary legislation, which would be in effect for 225 days, also received the first of two necessary votes at the most recent meeting. Permanent bills that, among other provisions, include self-certification, are currently under consideration by multiple Council committees.
Also approved at the most recent meeting was an emergency measure to extend and clarify access to $50 million in federal foreclosure relief provided by the federal government as part of broader COVID support legislation. Despite the funds being available to the District for many months, the application process for individuals to access these funds was just unveiled in mid-June. With DC being one of the last five states in America to make these funds available to its residents, an extension was critical. Residents now have up to September 30 to apply, and as long as they do, their protection from foreclosure will extend until their application has been processed and an award decision has been made.
In other action at the most recent Legislative Meeting, the Council:
- Removed a prior restriction on the issuance or renewal of drivers’ licenses to individuals that owe $100 or more to the District. Prior to a necessary second vote on this bill, the Council will work on language that preserves the intent of the bill, especially as it relates to racial equity, while also ensuring that driver and pedestrian safety remain prioritized.
- Added income and other restrictions to its previously-passed blanket ban on non-compete agreements related to hiring
- Accelerated and expanded the District’s current climate and clean energy goals
- Modified and restricted the Council’s prior legislation allowing minors to consent to their own vaccinations in order to comply with a recent adverse court ruling
- Protected unhoused individuals from discrimination by adding them as a protected class under the District’s landmark Human Rights Act, and redefined “employees” under the Act’s protections to include independent contractors
The Council’s next Legislative Meeting, and the final meeting prior to its summer recess, will be held on July 12.