After patiently waiting out the storm, Washington D.C., the epicenter of prohibition in the United States, is on the verge of becoming the first eastern region to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to the alcohol industry.
In a showing of bipartisan support, the Senate Appropriations Committee put their seal of approval on a Financial Services bill earlier this week that removes the ban on retail pot shops in the District of Columbia, allowing the jurisdiction to move forward with legislation to establish a cannabis trade.
Although last year’s passing of Initiative 71 allows District residents to legally cultivate, possess, and transfer marijuana, the possibility of retail sales has been at a stand still for the past several months due to an amendment that was attached to a federal spending bill. However, this temporary sandbagging of an inevitable industry is in a state of creeping death, with the amendment set to expire at the end of September 2015.
Earlier this year, D.C. Councilmember David Grosso told High Times that a retail pot market could be in action by mid or late 2016 if the majority leaders in the House and Senate decided to step up this year and prevent budget restrictions from being imposed against the District.
“If Congress lifts the rider in the next budget cycle and says that we can move forward with regulation, I believe the council would act expeditiously,” Grosso said. “We would probably move my bill [Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act] on emergency basis to get it effective immediately. The ABRA [Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration] would get right into the process. But that’s all imperative on Congress stepping up for the people of the District of Columbia.”
After the Obama Administration released its 2016 budget plan, which included language that allows the District to proceed with regulated pot sales, Representative Andy Harris, the culprit responsible for sabotaging D.C.’s immediate potential for a cannabis trade, released a statement announcing that he has no plans to introduce another anti-pot amendment. Even with a recent House budget proposal seeking to restrict the District’s ability to get into the business of marijuana, the details surrounding this issue are expected to be negotiated in the city’s favor once the collective governance gathers to discuss federal funding in the next few months.
If the Financial Services bill becomes law, which is a distinct possibility in the face of decent odds, District lawmakers could immediately begin work on establishing legal sales.