Dozens of civil rights and cannabis advocacy groups are calling on Congress to remove the impediment that has prevented
Voters in the District of Columbia passed a measure to legalize marijuana back in 2014, and the new law took effect the following year. But Congress oversees all laws inside the district, and a budget rider authored by Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from Maryland, has been a part of every appropriations bill passed since the legalization measure passed.
Harris’ rider specifically precludes the District of Columbia from commercializing cannabis.
In the fall, Democrats in Congress indicated a willingness to remove the provision when they introduced an appropriations bill in October that did not include the Harris rider.
The letter on Friday applauded the removal of the rider in the proposed bill, and it encouraged Congress to see it through.
“It is imperative to both public health, public safety, and for Congress’ support of the District’s right to home rule that the removal of the Harris rider is maintained,” the groups said in the letter. “The District of Columbia is one of 19 jurisdictions that has allowed for access to marijuana for adult use. Yet, because the District is not a state, it is the only jurisdiction that cannot regulate marijuana sales. Congress and the Department of Justice have allowed other states like Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and California, among others, to exercise their sovereign right to set policy and function as laboratories of democracy; the District of Columbia should be allowed to use local taxpayers’ funds to support local needs as well.”
Ensuring Safe Cannabis Access in Washington D.C.
Not allowing recreational cannabis in Washington, D.C. has led to a public safety issue in terms of cannabis access.
“Without the ability to regulate marijuana sales, the grey market for marijuana flourishes despite the need and want of the District leadership and residents alike to establish a regulatory model. Such a model would free up law enforcement resources to focus on threats to public safety,” the groups said in the letter.
The letter continues, “It would also allow legitimate entrepreneurs to start businesses, create jobs and spur economic development in the District. It is of utmost importance that the District of Columbia be granted the same capacity as states around the nation that have voted to regulate adult use of marijuana and deliver on the promises of [the ballot initiative passed in 2014].”
When Democrats unveiled a Harris rider-less appropriations bill in October, the development was met with applause by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“The Senate appropriations bill is a critical step in recognizing that in a democracy, D.C. residents should be governed by D.C. values,” Bowser’s office