Bowser rolls out DC bill clearing way for legal marijuana sales

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced a bill to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana in the District, saying the proposal would also help neighborhoods disproportionally impacted by criminalized weed.

On Friday, the District’s Mayor announced the "Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021," writing:

"This is about safety, equity, and justice … Through this legislation, we can fulfill the will of DC voters, reduce barriers for entering the cannabis industry, and invest in programs that serve residents and neighborhoods hardest hit by the criminalization of marijuana."

The proposed legislation could legalize marijuana sales for those 21-and-older, and allow the city to tax it at 17%.

Mayor Bowser claims this would create a safe marketplace and business opportunities in communities disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of marijuana. 

She says it would reinvest Cannabis Tax revenue into targeted community programs and programs to help returning citizens.

The bill also includes automatic expungement of records for certain marijuana-related convictions.

The proposal arrived a day before Virginia lawmakers voted Saturday to legalize recreational marijuana sales in 2024. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to sign the bill. 

RELATED: Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize marijuana in 2024

D.C. voters passed "Initiative 71" in 2014, allowing District residents to possess small amounts of recreational marijuana (2 ounces or less) for personal use.

But they can’t legally sell or buy marijuana due to a federal measure, which also prohibits the city from regulating cannabis or taxing its sales.

House Republicans against doing away with the federal measure reportedly include Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, who shared a CDC study on marijuana use, substance abuse and teens.

Rep. Harris tweeted in August: "Any talk of legalizing recreational marijuana is a bad idea, especially in the midst of an opioid abuse and addiction crisis, worsened by COVID."

Online cannabis activists with the group "DC Marijuana Justice" criticized different texts of the bill, noting it would prohibit giving away marijuana as a form of advocacy.

DC Marijuana Justice co-founder and long-time Cannabis advocate Josh Eidinger told TMZ last month the group planned to give away weed as a way to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

"We wanted to say like, look, the science that supports Cannabis being safe and effective for a host of issues, including anxiety from vaccine, and so supports the science behind vaccine," Eidinger said on TMZ.

The Mayor’s "Safe Cannabis Sales Act" would create an Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Board.

If passed by the end of 2021, the Mayor says legal marijuana sales could start by October 1, 2022. 

The bill is being proposed by D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, at the request of the Mayor.  

You can read the Financial Impact Statement on the "Safe Cannabis Act of 2019" online. The 2021 draft is supposed to be an expanded version of the 2019 bill.

Here’s Mayor Bowser’s announcement and the full bill text is below: