Debate continues in DC over establishment of recreational marijuana market

A congressional committee has restored a bill that prevents the D.C. government from establishing a recreational marijuana marketplace in the nation’s capital. 

The House Appropriations Committee surprised D.C. officials earlier this month when the new government spending bill was released and the measure blocking D.C. from having recreational marijuana businesses was not in the bill. 

It turns out that the surprise was short-lived.

Maryland Congressman Andy Harris has gotten what’s known as the "Harris Rider" put back into the appropriations bill. It means Congress will continue to block D.C. from having recreational cannabis stores. 

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson says that the marijuana black market in D.C. is thriving and threatening to put D.C.’s legal medical marijuana dispensaries out of business.

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"What the Rider does is it retrains our ability to have a regulated legal market and instead we’ve got a burgeoning black market and that black market is in turn undermining the legal medical cannabis market," Mendelson said. 

For his part, Congressman Harris fired back at Mendelson in a statement to FOX 5, saying, "all that the D.C. Mayor and Council care about is collecting more tax revenue. They don’t seem to care about the young lives they will be ruining by making an addictive substance more widely available"  D.C.’s member of Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton tells FOX 5, that it’s a blow to D.C.’s home rule."

But another D.C. lawmaker says marijuana use isn't slowing down, so it's better to regulate it.

"The fact is that marijuana is widely used across the United States and it’s only for adult use and I don’t think this would have any impact on the lives of people you don’t have to use it," said Democratic Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Mendelson says he takes particular issue with the congressman from Maryland — a state that has its own thriving recreational marijuana industry — continuing to block D.C., telling FOX 5 that "the congressman is out of line with his own state."