Imagine if locally licensed shops selling cannabis to adults for recreational use were allowed to crop up in the shadow of the very agencies responsible for spearheading the nation’s decades-long war on marijuana.
Several years ago the idea would’ve seemed very far-fetched, and anyone suggesting it might happen soon likely would’ve been laughed out of town by even the most fervent advocates.
But this scenario has quickly moved into the realm of possibility – and in fact could actually become a reality in the near future.
Last week, a city councilman in Washington DC introduced a bill to tax and regulate marijuana sales in the nation’s capital. The measure would nix criminal and civil penalties for cannabis possession by adults and allow the city to regulate the production and sale of marijuana.
While the measure would only impact the situation on a local level, it would be a hugely symbolic (and ironic) win for the industry given that DC is the seat of power in the US.
Here are several reasons why the measure could actually gain enough support in city council to become law:
– The development comes on the heels of a historic announcement earlier this month by the US Department of Justice to take a hands-off approach to states that legalize marijuana for recreational use and issue new, more favorable guidelines for federal prosecutors when it comes to enforcing cannabis laws. These moves have changed the climate for recreational cannabis significantly, ushering in what seems to be a new respect for local laws on the issue.
– Colorado and Washington are already moving forward with adult-use marijuana programs after legalizing cannabis last November, so there is already a precedent, and there will be a regulatory model to follow.
– The federal government has not interfered with the opening of medical marijuana grow sites and dispensaries in the District this year, indicating that there won’t be a different set of rules for the cannabis industry in the nation’s capital.
– There’s strong local support for marijuana in general. A poll conducted last spring found that roughly 60% of DC voters indicated they would support a ballot measure calling for the legalization of marijuana for general adult use.
– Most council members have already signed on to a bill calling for the decriminalization of marijuana possession, so it’s reasonable to think they could take it a step further and vote to legalize, regulate and tax cannabis sales.
– For all of the above reasons, and more, lawmakers are now increasingly open to backing cannabis-related measures, as there’s less risk to their reputations. In fact, given the overwhelming support for marijuana issues nationwide, there might even be a benefit in supporting such initiatives.
Although these are all compelling reasons to think DC will legalize marijuana sales at the local level, it will still be an uphill battle. City council members might want to avoid further taunting the federal government in its own backyard, and many still worry about how legalization will play out and what impact it will have on everything from crime to minors.
So this proposal could simply be the start of a much longer discussion about legalizing marijuana in DC.
In other developments last week, the Las Vegas City Council voted to delay the implementation of the state’s new dispensary law, which effectively means it will be at least six months – and possibly much longer – before entrepreneurs in Sin City can apply for MMJ business licenses. This is par for the course when it comes to dispensary regulations, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The good news is that Las Vegas council members cited valid justification for the delay: They want to ensure the city gets regulations right the first time around.
If the delays don’t drag on endlessly and the city does indeed craft solid regulations, then the temporary setback will be worth it.
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