DC’s recreational marijuana ambitions blocked in federal bill

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Washington DC would continue to be barred from launching a recreational marijuana market under the U.S. congressional budget released Wednesday.

The omnibus spending package retains a provision that prevents the city from legalizing commercial recreational marijuana sales, according to media reports.

That’s a huge setback for a city that was poised to launch an adult-use market.

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican, put in place the budget rider after District of Columbia voters legalized adult-use marijuana in 2014.

The U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC), which has become one of the marijuana industry’s leading lobbying groups, issued a statement saying it was “deeply disappointed” in the DC development and the failure to advance federal cannabis reform.

Preventing DC from being able to implement a regulated marijuana market has “created a harmful underground market that operates without any standards or safeguards and is at odds with the will of local voters,” Steven Hawkins, CEO of the USCC, said in the statement.

The federal budget bill did include protections for state-legal medical marijuana operations, as has been the case for a number of years, but lacked more substantive reform provisions.

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Federal marijuana reform such as cannabis banking, for example, continues to struggle to gain traction this year, but the USCC said it’s still hopeful reform can advance in this legislative session.

The group noted that some of the industry’s leading CEOs will be in DC to try to move the industry’s agenda forward.