Cannabis industry scathing in its review of Biden ban on Washington DC sales

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Marijuana industry officials sharply criticized President Joe Biden’s proposed $5.8 trillion budget, which maintains a ban on adult-use cannabis sales in Washington DC despite strong public support for the program.

“The nation’s capital could be a model for how to get cannabis legalization right. Instead, it’s the very opposite, and President Biden now shares some of the blame,” Steven Hawkins, CEO of the U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC), wrote in a statement.

The USCC lists more than 65 members on its website, including multistate operators, smaller companies, ancillary businesses and even other marijuana trade organizations.

The District of Columbia City Council paved the way last fall for a projected $200 million recreational marijuana market to be launched as soon as this summer, only to see the effort blocked in a draft congressional budget and, now, the administration’s budget proposal.

What’s blocking commercial marijuana sales in DC is a provision known as the Harris Rider, named after sponsor Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican.

The continued prohibition on adult-use sales in DC comes despite Biden’s election campaign promise to, in part, allow states to decide whether to allow commercial cannabis markets.

“No one expects cannabis reform to be top of mind for a president facing down Russia, inflation and COVID-19,” Hawkins wrote.

“However, President Biden has consistently passed up opportunities to make good on his campaign commitments to pardon non-violent offenders, fund expungement programs, boost research and give states autonomy over their medical and adult-use programs. In some cases, the administration has even gone in reverse on cannabis.”

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Hawkins added that a “dangerous gray market” operates in DC in the absence of a legal adult-use one, “without any standards or safeguards and brazenly targets underage consumers.

“President Biden’s budget just embraced this unacceptable prohibition.”