DC Council Chairman Mendelson Introduces Equitable Recreational Cannabis Legislation

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson – along with Council members Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, Brianne Nadeau, Brooke Pinto, Christina Henderson, and Mary Cheh – introduced the most comprehensive, progressive, and equitable legislation to regulate the sale of recreational Cannabis in the District of Columbia.

“This legislation is the culmination of over a year of work by my office and external stakeholders,” Mendelson said. “It creates a comprehensive regulatory framework for the cultivation, production, and sale of recreational cannabis and most significantly, this bill centers reinvestment and opportunity for people and communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.”

The “Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Act of 2021” differs from previous iterations of recreational marijuana sales bills in that it establishes:

  1. A Social Equity program that mandates at least half of all licenses to be set aside for Social Equity applicants (defined as residents who have been previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses or have lived ten of the last 20 years in areas with high rates of poverty, unemployment and arrests);
  2. A Cannabis Equity and Opportunity Fund to provide financial assistance to Social Equity applicants. This is especially important given that traditional financing options are unavailable for cannabis and especially difficult for social equity applicants. Thirty percent of tax revenues from cannabis sales would be deposited into this fund;
  3. A Community Reinvestment Program Fund that would provide grants to organizations addressing issues such as economic development, homeless prevention, youth development and civil legal aid in areas hardest hit by the drug wars. Fifty percent of tax revenues from cannabis sales would be deposited into this fund;
  4. A robust public education campaign that will inform District residents of the law and focus on responsible use and harm reduction strategies for residents of legal age who consume cannabis;
  5. Automatic expungement of cannabis-related arrests and convictions, and opportunities for resentencing for individuals currently serving sentences for cannabis-related convictions;
  6. Protections for District residents who legally possess and consume cannabis pursuant to the Act so that they do not lose benefits, employment, or access to other critical resources; and
  7. Authorization for banks in the District to conduct business with cannabis licensees, and allowances for local tax deductions for cannabis licensee business expenses.