The Ban On Recreational Weed Sales In D.C. Lives On In Biden’s Proposed Budget

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…D.C. voters signaled their approval of marijuana legalization with the passage of Initiative 71 in 2014, which allowed adults 21 and over to grow, possess, and gift small amounts of marijuana — but not sell it. D.C. currently has a medical marijuana program and a grey market for recreational weed that is largely tolerated by officials, with some notable exceptions.

But the District cannot fully legalize marijuana sales as long as the Harris rider remains in place. Norton says the stars are aligned for Congress to toss out the ban, but Biden is squandering his chance.

Marijuana policy observers say Biden’s inaction on the ban reflects his generally cautious approach to cannabis. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this year that Biden supports decriminalizing the plant on the federal level, letting states decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana, and legalizing medical cannabis. But she stopped short of saying Biden would support a federal marijuana legalization bill. (Biden has said he supports D.C. statehood, though, under which the new state would be free to legalize marijuana.)

Cannabis news website Marijuana Moment summed up Biden’s cannabis policy as “yes to medical cannabis, no to recreational marijuana.”

Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George told the Washington Post that Biden’s inaction prompted “disappointment and shock” among her colleagues. Legal marijuana could bring the city millions in revenue every year — which would be welcome any time, though particularly in the wake of a pandemic that left thousands of residents unemployed and in need of enhanced social services.

In Virginia, where the General Assembly voted to create a legal pot marketplace by 2024, lawmakers were dazzled by estimates that showed marijuana sales could rake in as much as $308 million a year.

Rep. Harris, an anesthesiologist who has been called “Public Enemy #1” by cannabis advocates, justified his budget rider by pointing out potential health effects of marijuana use. He doubled down in 2020, when he tweeted, “Any talk of legalizing recreational marijuana is a bad idea, especially in the midst of an opioid abuse and addiction crisis, worsened by COVID.”

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