Legislation providing patients with greater access to medical cannabis is now law in the District of Columbia.

On January 31st, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser signed legislation, B24-0013: The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act. After undergoing an obligatory Congressional review process, the measure became law yesterday, March 22nd.

The new law increases the number of licensed dispensaries that can operate in the District, enacts tax relief for operators, codifies the ability for individuals to “self-certify” that they have a need for medical marijuana, and creates new cannabis business categories, such as on-site tasting/consumption lounges, among other changes.

It also provides opportunities for unregulated operators to apply for licensure and provides law enforcement and regulators with expanded powers to crack down on unlicensed establishments that fail to do so.

“Despite being under the thumb of Congressional lawmakers, members of the DC City government continue to prioritize policies that both advance and protect the freedoms of responsible cannabis consumers,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “These policies include providing patients with convenient access to regulated medical cannabis products, prohibiting certain employers from discriminating against those who use cannabis while off the job, and providing legal relief to those with past, low-level marijuana convictions.”

Members of the DC City Council have passed several cannabis-related reforms 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 registration cards. Lawmakers 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.”

Most recently, DC Council Members enacted B24-0063: The Second Chance Amendment Act, which provides for the automatic review and expungement of any convictions or citations specific to marijuana-related offenses that have subsequently been decriminalized or legalized in the District of Columbia, as well as any “records related only to simple possession for any quantity of marijuana in violation of D.C. Code § 48-904.01(d)(1) before February 15, 2015.” It requires all cannabis-specific expungements to be processed by the courts by January 1, 2025.

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