Congress allows Washington DC medical cannabis reforms to become law

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Medical cannabis is expected to be much more easily and widely available in Washington DC after a set of reforms that include lifting a cap on dispensaries and allowing patients to “self-certify” became law this week.

Congress had until March 22 to interfere with the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act signed into by Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser in January, but the federal lawmakers took no action, according to NORML.

In addition to allowing residents to “self-certify” as medical cannabis patients, which some observers say amounts to a de facto adult-use market, the new law:

  • Eliminates a cap on the number of dispensaries allowed in the district.
  • Temporarily lifts plant limit for licensed cultivators.
  • Allows for delivery services and consumption lounges.
  • Extends limited tax relief to operators.

“Despite being under the thumb of Congressional lawmakers, members of the DC City government continue to prioritize policies that both advance and protect the freedoms of responsible cannabis consumers,” Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director, said in a statement.

Separately, the DC City Council passed an expungement law that’s supposed to clear records of certain low-level convictions by Jan. 1, 2025.

Voters in the nation’s capital legalized adult-use cannabis in 2014, but the only legal access to marijuana is via MMJ dispensaries.

Past efforts to regulate adult-use retail have been blocked by Congress, which has veto power over local laws under the district’s Home Rule Act.

In the interim, illicit cannabis sales have flourished.

Meanwhile, D.C. dispensaries and cultivation centers reported $4.7 million in monthly sales in February 2023.