House finance bill would create adult-use sales in DC, marijuana banking

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Adult-use marijuana sales could finally begin in Washington, D.C., under a federal budget bill that a Republican-controlled House of Representatives subcommittee approved Wednesday.

The Financial Services and General Government Bill also includes nationwide protections for banks that do business with marijuana businesses.

However, there’s a long road ahead before the bill could become law.

More amendments are possible in committee, a full House floor session and in any counterpart in the Senate.

Recreational marijuana has been legal in the nation’s capital since a 2014 voter initiative, but federal spending bills passed by Congress – the final authority in many municipal matters in the District of Columbia – have prohibited the city from setting up adult-use sales.

That’s thanks to language inserted every year since 2014 by Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris and, most recently, signed into law by President Joe Biden.

The so-called Harris Rider has led to the unregulated “gifting” practice that’s frustrated legitimate marijuana businesses as well as local law enforcement and advocates.

However, the Harris Rider was notably excluded from the budget bill that passed the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, DC TV station WUSA reported.

According to Marijuana Moment, the federal budget bill denies funding to certain federal agencies – including the Treasury Department, which regulates and punishes banks – that “penalize a financial institution” for offering services to marijuana-related or hemp businesses.

“The protections are less robust” than proposed cannabis banking measures, because the Financial Services and General Government Bill applies only to agencies covered under that measure, “which do not include the Justice Department,” Marijuana Moment noted.

Also, unless the bill is extended, it’s good for only one fiscal year.