DC council votes to allow medical marijuana patients to self-certify without doctors, as workaround to federal block on recreational sales

The Washington, D.C. Council on Tuesday unanimously approved emergency legislation that will effectively create a recreational marijuana market by allowing people to self-certify as medical cannabis patients and access dispensaries. , without the need for a doctor’s referral.

Legislation by Kenyan Council members McDuffie (D) and Mary Cheh (D) cleared the full council in a 13-0 vote.

This effectively allows the district to circumvent a congressional endorsement prohibiting DC from using its local dollars to implement a system for the sale of adult-use marijuana. Voters approved legalizing the possession, cultivation and personal donation of cannabis in the 2014 ballot, but there were no licensed retailers for non-patients.

A similar bill that would also have provided for the cannabis self-certification process was narrowly defeated in April. But the reason for his defeat was largely related to separate provisions in the measure by President Phil Mendelson (D) that would have cracked down on unlicensed companies that use the existing policy to “offer” cannabis to people who buy products. and unrelated services.

These enforcement provisions were not included in the legislation passed on Tuesday. However, the issue was addressed in a resolution attached to the measure. He notes that there are “lower barriers to entry” among “grey” market vendors, as an unregistered person could simply purchase non-cannabis items in exchange for offered marijuana, bypassing the process. application and certification to access approved dispensaries.

There are also safety risks in this market, the legislation notes, because the products are not subject to quality control standards like in the existing medical cannabis program.

“Because these stores operate outside the law, there is no requirement or enforcement of customer registration, including verification that shoppers are of legal age,” the resolution states. “Additionally, for gray market products, there is no guarantee that the marijuana has been adequately tested or labelled, raising concerns that the products could be contaminated or otherwise unsafe for consumers, and that the potency of purchased marijuana may differ from what has been advertised.”

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“On the other hand, a patient wishing to purchase legal medical marijuana from existing regulated dispensaries must meet numerous regulatory requirements,” he says, adding that the onerous registration requirements for eligible patients “ have had real consequences for legal medical dispensaries”. .”

“This emergency legislation only displaces the part of this previous legislation relating to self-certification. Specifically, it would allow medical marijuana patients aged 21 and over to self-certify that they are using marijuana for medical purposes. Patients will still be officially registered in the medical marijuana program, will be issued a patient identification number, and will be registered in ABRA’s private and secure “Metrc” track and trace system. While not a panacea to the problems facing our legal marijuana market, this emergency legislation provides some relief by increasing the ability of medical marijuana patients to access the legal and regulated medical market.

While local lawmakers, as well as the mayor, are eager to officially create a regulated market for adult-use marijuana, they have been prevented from doing so due to a GOP-sponsored congressional spending endorsement that has been renewed annually, specifically prohibiting DC from using its local tax money to set up a recreational cannabis trading system.

But it remains to be seen when that jumper might be lifted.

“Patients who self-certify will still be officially registered in the medical marijuana program, will receive a patient identification number, and will see all reported sales,” Cheh said ahead of Tuesday’s vote. “Permanent legislation to comprehensively update the district’s marijuana laws, including the provision of certification, is currently being drafted by the Board. But in the meantime, it will provide an essential stopgap measure to help legal safe and regulated medical marijuana dispensaries retain and win back patients and protect patients.

Under Democratic control, both houses of Congress have offered to lift Rep. Andy Harris’s (R-MD) jumper in recent years, including in the last spending bill, but the year’s appropriations bill last upheld the ban, and President Joe Biden for the second time proposed a budget that would keep the cannabis restriction.

The measure’s patient self-certification provision would represent a significant expansion of another piece of legislation enacted this year that allows people 65 and older to self-certify for medical cannabis without a doctor’s referral.

Meanwhile, the DC Council unanimously approved a bill this month banning most workplaces from firing or punishing employees for marijuana use.

The legislation, sponsored by Council member Trayon White (D), was first approved by a key committee vote in March before being initially approved by the full body at a hearing in April. It would extend previous legislation approved by the DC Council to protect local government employees from discrimination in the workplace because of their use of medical cannabis.

In 2019, another DC lawmaker proposed a separate medical cannabis reform bill intended to make the patient registration process easier. Instead of having to wait several weeks for regulators to process their medical cannabis approvals, patients would simply file an application with the city’s health department and then be automatically qualified to legally purchase marijuana on an interim basis.

Lawmakers held a joint hearing last year on a pair of bills to allow the legal sale of recreational marijuana and significantly expand the existing medical cannabis program in the nation’s capital.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has been adamant about removing the jumper from Congress and responding to the will of voters by establishing a regulated system for the sale of adult-use marijuana.

The mayor said last year that local authorities were ready to move forward with implementing a legal system for the sale of recreational marijuana in the nation’s capital as soon as they could cross the last “barrier” of congressional interference.

Bowser introduced a cannabis trade bill last year, although his measure is not on the agenda for the November hearing alongside Mendelson’s cannabis legalization proposal.

Last March, a federal watchdog determined that the congressional endorsement blocking marijuana sales in DC does not prevent local officials from taking procedural steps to prepare for the possible reform, such as holding audiences, even if they can’t pass it yet with the pending blockade.

Separately, a group of activists last year announced an effort to pressure local lawmakers to enact broad drug decriminalization, with an emphasis on promoting harm reduction programs, in the national capital. A poll released last year found voters strongly in favor of the proposals.

At the congressional level, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said in November that she was “closer than ever” to lifting the federal blockade on the cannabis trade in her district.

GOP congresswoman takes marijuana victory lap after her primary victory and talks about next steps for her legalization bill

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About Bradley J. Bridges

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