Six Councilmembers join Committee of the Whole Chairman Mendelson in Introduction of Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Act of 2021

March 1, 2021 – Washington, D.C — Today, Committee of the Whole Chairman Phil Mendelson is joined by Councilmembers Charles Allen, Christina Henderson, Brianne K. Nadeau, Brooke Pinto, Kenyan McDuffie, and Mary M. Cheh in introducing the Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Act of 2021, a sweeping bill that establishes a legal market for cannabis in the District of Columbia, takes important steps toward ensuring the industry is inclusive and accessible to communities hardest hit by the drug war and reinvests 50% of cannabis revenue back into these communities. The bill also takes additional steps towards eliminating the life-long consequences of prior marijuana arrests and convictions.
 
“While state after state legalizes marijuana and is able to experience the benefits of doing so, DC residents have been held hostage and denied these rights and opportunities – which they voted for and approved six years ago – by Congress,” said Queen Adesuyi, Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “As Congress continues to advance marijuana reform at the federal level, it is critical that this injustice in their own backyard finally comes to an end and home rule is respected. It is past time for DC to be able to fully realize these benefits by seeking justice reform and equity within their own legal marketplace.”
 
The newly introduced bill includes the following provisions:

  • Provides for the automatic review and expungement of convictions relating to cannabis or cannabis paraphernalia (other than sales to minor) within 180 days 
  • Sets aside at least 50% of all available licenses in each license category for social equity applicants 
  • Implements strong family law protections for parents and guardians
  • Eliminates denial of public assistance as a result of cannabis use
  • Provides protection from violation while on probation 
  • Directs 30% of cannabis revenue into a Social Equity Fund for the purpose of providing loans, grants, and other support for social equity applicants
  • Directs 50% of cannabis revenue into a Community Reinvestment Program Fund, which will be overseen by a Board representing community based organizations and formerly incarcerated people, to fund grants to community-based organizations that address economic development, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, non-law enforcement violence prevention services, homeless prevention services, re-entry services, youth development, and civil legal aid for underserved communities.

“This bill is the culmination of over a year of work and with this legislation, the District will finally be able to regulate the sale and distribution of cannabis – made legal some six years ago by the voters,” says lead sponsor and Whole Committee Chairman Phil Mendelson. “The proposal creates a comprehensive and equitable regulatory framework for a recreational cannabis market in the District. This bill centers reinvestment on — and creates opportunities for — the people and communities that were hit hardest by the drug war.”
 
The Drug Policy Alliance has worked with Chairman Mendelson on this piece of legislation for over a year, along with other local stakeholders. This bill was intentionally crafted in favor of safe and comprehensive regulation that focuses on repairing the damage done by past criminal enforcement, investing in the communities most harmed, and creating equitable access to the new marketplace so that the benefits of legalization can be realized by all.
 
Last Friday, Mayor Muriel Bowser released a press release announcing the introduction of the Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021, her legislative attempt at establishing a regulatory regime for cannabis in the District and addressing equity in the industry.
 
“After decades of prohibition, and even years of limbo following the passage of Initiative 71, it is encouraging to see the D.C. Council and the Executive’s enthusiasm in establishing a legal marketplace and addressing social equity,” Adesuyi says. “However, we are looking forward to the D.C. Council advancing the more robust legislative option – which happens to be Chairman Mendelson’s Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Act of 2021. Prohibition’s harms have been devastating to low-income and Black communities in the District. Attempts to rectify this harm must be as sweeping and impactful to directly impacted communities as that harm.”