Despite the fact that Congress has taken it upon itself to ensure that District of Columbia cannot establish a retail marijuana market, one local lawmaker has thrown caution to the wind by introducing a piece of legislation intended to allow the District to start selling marijuana.
Councilmember David Grosso submitted a bill (Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2017) to the D.C. Council on Tuesday aimed at creating a taxed and regulated cannabis market that would give people the freedom to buy weed in a manner similar to beer.
This is the first attempt to legalize retail marijuana sales since Congress approved a rider a few years ago that prevents the city from using federal funds to enact legislation of this kind.
“It would be a violation of federal law to move this bill forward,” Grosso told The DCist. “But I believe, quite passionately, that is what is called for in the District of Columbia when our rights are trampled on a regular basis.”
Although a 2014 ballot measure known as Initiative 71 made it legal for DC residents to cultivate, possess and give away marijuana without suffering the wrath of a law enforcement shakedown, the directive did not come with a provision that allows weed to be sold in the same way they are currently doing in states like Colorado and Washington.
But before DC lawmakers could step in and pass legislation in favor of creating a retail cannabis trade, Congress, at the request of Maryland Representative Andy Harris, passed a pesky amendment tucked inside a federal spending bill that has continued to prevent the city from so much as even considering legal pot sales in the backyard of the White House.
After three years of sandbagging, however, Grosso believes the time has come for the District to stand up to the bullies on Capitol Hill.
“D.C. has spoken when it comes to marijuana policy and it’s our obligation as the city’s elected leaders to carry out the will of the people,” he said. “I think we ought to go ahead and violate the federal law.”
Unfortunately, while other lawmakers in the DC Council are fully prepared to go up against Congress this year in an effort to bring legal marijuana sales to the District, city officials, specifically Attorney General Karl Racine and Mayor Muriel Bowser, are reportedly less than enthusiastic about fighting federal lawmakers on the issue.
Grosso says this apprehensiveness could be problematic, since it is going to take a unified effort in order to get Congress to back down.
If the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act can somehow find its way out of the cracks of legislative purgatory, the DC pot market could be worth an estimated $94 million by the year 2020, according to a recent report from ArcView Market Research and New Frontier. Other projections claim the haul could be much more significant, suggesting the District could see $130 million a year from the sale of marijuana.