City lawmakers have provided final approval to a pair of bills that seek to significantly reform marijuana laws in the District of Columbia.
Last week, District officials transmitted B24-0063: The Second Chance Amendment Act of 2021 to Congress absent the Mayor’s signature. It calls for the automatic review and expungement of any convictions or citations specific to marijuana-related offenses that have subsequently been decriminalized or legalized, among other changes. All cannabis-specific expungements are required to be processed by the courts by January 1, 2025.
The legislation must undergo a 30-day Congressional review prior to becoming law. If Congress does not intervene, the legislation is anticipated to take effect on March 16, 2023.
District voters legalized the limited possession and home cultivation of cannabis via the passage of a municipal initiative in 2014. The following year, marijuana-related arrests in the District fell some 99 percent. However, prior to the law’s adoption, DC had one of the nation’s highest per capita arrest rates for marijuana-related offenses — averaging one arrest every two hours.
On Monday, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser signed separate legislation, B24-0013: The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act, which seeks to significantly expand medical cannabis operations and access in the District. Provisions in the bill increase the number of licensed dispensaries that can operate in the District, enact tax relief for operators, codify into law the ability for individuals to “self-certify” that they have a need for medical marijuana, and create new cannabis business categories, such as on-site tasting/consumption lounges, among other changes.
The legislation must also undergo Congressional review before it can take effect.
Members of the DC City Council have passed a number of pieces of cannabis-related legislation in recent months, including legislation to increase the amounts of medical cannabis patients may legally possess and to provides a process for non-resident qualifying patients to apply for temporary registration cards. Lawmakers this year also enacted broader legislation prohibiting employers, with certain exceptions, from “refus[ing] to hire, terminat[ing] from employment, suspend[ing], fail[ing] to promote, demot[ing], or penaliz[ing] an individual” due to an individual’s off-the-job use of cannabis, status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to “the presence of cannabinoid metabolites in [their] bodily fluids in an employer-required or requested drug test without additional factors indicating impairment.”