On Thursday, Washington, DC may have become the medical marijuana mecca of the United States. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that dispensaries in the nation’s capital will now accept valid medical marjiuana cards from any of the 27 states that have such systems.
“This emergency rulemaking is patient-centric,” the mayor stated in a press release. “It ensures medical marijuana patients from other states can obtain their needed medicine. It will also promote public safety by allowing visitors to obtain their medicine at one of the District’s six – soon to be seven – authorized dispensaries rather than forcing them to go without or patronizing the illegal market.”
Washington, DC already recognized the medical marijuana cards of 19 other states in its dispensaries. Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Vermont have been officially added to the list of reciprocal acceptance, while Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia are still to be considered for acceptance in the District’s dispensaries.
Though she has not always been in favor of expanding access to cannabis in the District, recently the mayor has played a key role in pushing for DC legalization. In May, she introduced a bill called the Safe Cannabis Sales Act that would regulate recreational marijuana in the city with a 17 percent tax that would be put back into DC’s public housing.
But Bowser’s intent was not to turn DC into a cannabis tourism destination. The recreational weed would be sold in limited parts of the city, with dispensaries banned from featuring prominent signage. It also has built-in allowances to make sure that any legal cannabis industry would prioritize the participation of DC residents, stipulating that any business selling recreational weed would need to meet baselines of 60 percent ownership and 60 staff members from the District itself.
“We want to be able to regulate, we want to be able to make sure we are collecting our fair share in taxes, we want to invest those taxes in ways that affect communities that have been disproportionately affected, and we want to train and hire DC residents,” Bowser said at the time. The bill is being reviewed by the DC Council, and if it passes would put marijuana regulation into the purview of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, and rename that agency to reflect its expanded responsibilities.
In 2014, the city legalized marijuana home grow and small scale possession, but lagged in establishing legal points of purchase for non-medical cannabis.
The city has seen its share of cannabis crackdowns in recent years. A perceived loophole in the law that saw people offering cannabis at pop-up events resulted in the eventual arrest of 30 people at a 2018 gathering.
Officials cautioned those who would take advantage of the new policy to get their meds that it remains illegal to cross state lines with cannabis — even if you bought the weed legally and with proper local authorization. Another note: you still can’t consume in public in Washington, DC, so make sure you have the proper set up when you want to avoid the cops.