Washington, D.C. Mayor Signs Medical Pot Bill

The recently passed bill, called the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 (B24-0113), was sponsored by Chairman Phil Mendelson of the Washington, D.C. Council in February 2021. The Washington, D.C. Council voted unanimously to pass on Dec. 20, 2022, followed by Bowser signing the bill on Jan. 30, just two days before a response was due on Feb. 1.

The bill expands the capital’s medical cannabis program in many ways, including lifting the cap on dispensaries, creating new license types, and codifies emergency measures passed in 2021 and 2022.

Originally the amendment proposed implementing an increased cap on dispensaries, but was later revised to include no maximum number (although the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Board is given the power to establish a cap one year from the passage of the bill in January 2024).

It also authorizes the creation of more cannabis license types, including cannabis delivery services, online sales, educational programs, and areas dedicated to cannabis consumption. “At least half” of all licenses given to currently unlicensed businesses will be given to social equity applicants (defined as those who are D.C. residents with low income, have spent time in prison for cannabis-related charges, or are related to someone who was affected by the War on Drugs).

Medical cannabis was legalized in Washington D.C. in 2010, and an attempt to legalize adult-use cannabis was passed by voters in 2014 through Initiative 71. While it allows possess of up to two ounces of cannabis and home cultivation, it also allows adults to gift up to one ounce of weed to another adult, which created the loophole of gifting (or a way to get around cannabis sale restrictions by selling merch or apparel with a gift of cannabis for free). The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 seeks to target those unlicensed businesses, giving them a path to obtain a legal license.

The act also codifies emergency measures that were implemented for cannabis. This includes the emergency measure that provides support for Washington, D.C. patients with expired cards and help struggling dispensaries as well, which was passed in November 2021. In July 2022, Bowser signed a bill allowing adults to self-certify themselves as medical cannabis patients.

Overall, enforcement action related to these changes won’t be implemented until 315 days have passed since the signing of the bill, which would be later this year in December. It also needs congressional review before officially taking effect.

Also recently in Washington, D.C., Mendelson the Second Chance Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-0063) is under congressional review. This would implement automatic expungement through “automatic sealing for non-dangerous, non-convictions as well as shorten the waiting periods before a person is eligible to seal their record. It would also expand the eligibility of who can seal their record.” All expungements would need to be processed before Jan. 1, 2025. If congress doesn’t make a move against the bill, its projected law date is set for March 16, 2023.

Mendelson also recently introduced another bill (B25-0052) on Jan. 19, which aims to legalize adult-use cannabis sales. The proposal includes a “Reparations for Victims of the War on Cannabis Fund,” which would offer anywhere between $5,000 to $80,000 to pay those who were negatively affected by cannabis criminalization. It also includes a “Cannabis Equity and Opportunity Fund,” which would gather up 40% of revenue to go toward loans or grants for applicants affected by criminalization. Additionally, the bill details a plan to reinvest cannabis tax revenue into community services such as mental health treatments and youth development.

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Washington, D.C. Mayor Signs Medical Cannabis Self-Certification Bill

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Wednesday signed a bill into law that will ease access for medical cannabis patients in the nation’s capital.

Known as the Medical Marijuana Self-Certification Emergency Amendment Act of 2022, the measure will allow patients who are in the medical cannabis program to “self-certify” their qualifying condition for the treatment.

That means, effective immediately, those patients will no longer need to receive a recommendation from a doctor in order to receive a medical cannabis card.

Bowser hailed the new ordinance as a victory both for patients and medical cannabis providers.

“We have made it a priority over the years to build a more patient-centric medical marijuana program and this legislation builds on those efforts,” Bowser said in a statement on Wednesday. “We know that by bringing more medical marijuana patients into the legal marketplace in a timely manner and doing more to level the playing field for licensed medical marijuana providers, we can protect residents, support local businesses, and provide clarity to the community.”

“I applaud the Council for moving forward this innovative solution to a complex issue, and I look forward to working with the Council and ABRA on permanent, more comprehensive medical marijuana legislation in the future,” she continued.

The ordinance was passed late last month by the Washington, D.C. City Council.

Supporters of the measure said it was essential for medical cannabis dispensaries in Washington, D.C. that have taken a hit to their bottom line due to the prevalence of illicit pot retailers in the city.

“Due to the lower barriers to access in the gray market, a significant number of medical marijuana patients have shifted from purchasing their medical marijuana from legal medical dispensaries to the illicit gray market, creating a significant risk to the long-term viability of the District’s legal medical marijuana industry,” Councilmembers Kenyan McDuffie and Mary Cheh, the two sponsors of the ordinance, said in a statement last month. “If this trend continues, it is possible that gray market sales could wipe out the District’s legal marijuana dispensaries.”

Many of those unregulated cannabis retailers in Washington, D.C. employ the practice of “gifting,” by which a customer pays for a product such as a t-shirt and in turn receives a “gift” of cannabis.

In April, the D.C. City Council voted down a proposal that would have imposed hefty fines on those illicit pot stores.

Under the proposal, those unregulated shops would have been hit with fines up to $30,000. It also would have permitted adults aged 21 and older in D.C. to obtain medical cannabis without a doctor’s visit.

Looming over this dilemma is a Congress-imposed ban on recreational sales in Washington, D.C.

Voters in the district approved an initiative in 2014 that legalized recreational cannabis, but Congress, which oversees D.C. laws, has included a provision in every appropriations bill since then that prohibits the commercialization of recreational pot in the city.

It was a blow to cannabis advocates in the nation’s capital, and to Bowser, who expressed hope last fall when Senate Democrats unveiled a spending bill that did not include the provision.

“The Senate appropriations bill is a critical step in recognizing that in a democracy, D.C. residents should be governed by D.C. values,” Bower’s office said in a statement at the time. “As we continue on the path to D.C. statehood, I want to thank Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Senator Patrick Leahy, our good friend and Subcommittee Chair, Senator Chris Van Hollen, and, of course, our champion on the Hill, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, for recognizing and advancing the will of D.C. voters. We urge Congress to pass a final spending bill that similarly removes all anti-Home Rule riders, allowing D.C. to spend our local funds as we see fit.”

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Washington DC Council Passes MMJ Measure, Drops Gifting Crackdown

The Washington, D.C. District Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a measure designed to support medical marijuana dispensaries still struggling with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The emergency measure, which extends the expiration date for medical marijuana patient identification cards, was approved without language that had appeared in earlier versions of the legislation which would have cracked down on so called marijuana gifting businesses and delivery services.

Under the bill introduced by District Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, patients with medical marijuana identification cards that have expired since March 2020 may continue to use them to purchase cannabis through the end of Jan. 2022. The measure also replaces the current one-year identification card with one that expires two years after being issued and increases the amount of medical cannabis a patient can buy at one time from four ounces to eight ounces.

Mendelson introduced the measure to help medical marijuana dispensaries deal with the continuing economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, a public health emergency order that included a provision to extend the valid date of medical marijuana identification cards expired. Since that time, more than 6,000 of the 12,000 registered patients in the city have lost access regulated medical marijuana, according to information from the chairman’s staff.

“We had a wonderful increase during the COVID period where cannabis went from illegal to essential and patients were able to use their cannabis cards with expired date. Definitely our patient base dropped as a result of the emergency rule coming to a close,” Dr. Chanda Macias, owner of the National Holistic Healing Center, a medical marijuana dispensary in Washington’s Dupont Circle, told The DCist. “It’s just nice when you see all the stars align and you see that patient access is continuing to expand, so definitely on my high note right now, no pun intended.”

Proposed Crackdown on Marijuana Gifting and Delivery Dropped

The emergency measure passed by the district council did not include language to crack down on the cannabis delivery services and marijuana gifting businesses, which include cannabis as a “free gift” with purchases of a separate item. The items purchased to receive the gift of marijuana generally have little value and have included goods such as stickers and cookies. Under a version of the bill released last week, city agencies would have been empowered to pursue the “revocation of licenses, sealing of premises, and fines for businesses purchasing, selling or exchanging marijuana.”

The provision was designed to help regulated medical marijuana dispensaries, which have faced competition from marijuana gifting schemes and delivery services since the passage of Initiative 71, the 2014 ballot measure that legalized possession, use, and home cultivation of small amounts of cannabis. Joe Tierney, a Washington, D.C. cannabis advocate and founder and editor-in-chief of Gentleman Toker.com, applauded the council for dropping the proposed crackdown on marijuana gifting and delivery services.

“The DC Council wisely voted to help the city’s struggling medical marijuana market by extending an emergency bill that allows any patient whose card expired any time after March 2020 continued access to the dispensaries,” Tierney wrote in an email. “Chairman Mendelson’s attempt to end access to the Initiative 71 market for all recreational users was ultimately misguided and would have had far-reaching consequences for the city’s residents and businesses that depend on it during this time of economic uncertainty, especially people of color.”

City Leaders Ready To Regulate Adult-Use Cannabis

Although the federal government has allowed Washington, D.C.’s medical marijuana dispensaries to operate, Congress has used budget legislation to block the city government from regulating recreational cannabis sales ever since the passage of Initiative 71 by voters in 2014. Known as the Harris Rider for its author, Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris, the attachment to congressional spending bills prevents the District of Columbia from taking action to further legalize recreational cannabis or regulate commerce in adult-use marijuana.

“The Harris rider has been a real disservice to the District,” Mendelson told The Washington Post last month. “What Congress has done is create a wild wild West where there is no ability to have meaningful, constructive regulation.”

The rider has been approved each year since its debut in 2014, empowering Congress to exercise its oversight of district affairs and prevent local leaders from regulating recreational marijuana. However, the Senate Appropriations Committee omitted the Harris Rider from the appropriations bill for the 2022 fiscal year, which was released by the legislative panel in October. The House of Representatives also approved appropriations legislation without the Harris Rider this summer, although President Biden’s budget proposal released in May retained the restriction on legal recreational pot in D.C.

If Democratic leaders successfully prevent Republicans from reinserting the Harris Rider in future budget negotiations, Washington D.C.’s city leaders are prepared to move ahead with adult-use cannabis regulation. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has introduced legislation to legalize recreational cannabis as well as a separate proposal to expand the current medical marijuana infrastructure.

Another plan advanced by Mendelson earlier this year would prioritize local business owners over large corporations from outside the nation’s capital, with taxes raised by cannabis businesses allocated to areas of Washington disproportionately impacted by poverty and the War on Drugs. A public hearing to explore Mendelson’s recreational weed measure and Bowser’s medical marijuana proposal is scheduled for later this month.

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How to Give Weed Away for Free

Last Christmas, the gift idea of the season in certain corners of Michigan was cannabis — because buying a $100 chocolate bar, or $200 t-shirt, or some other absurdly priced, everyday item and then receiving $100 or $200 worth of weed as a “gift” was how the (somewhat) legal market worked.

(Turns out “buy some chocolate, get some weed” was an effective sales pitch.)

In Washington, D.C., where voters legalized cannabis but lawmakers from Texas and elsewhere still make rules in Congress such convoluted “gifting” schemes are technically the only way you can legally exchange cash for weed, and will be so for the foreseeable future.

But most gifts are for actual
giving — as in there’s no exchange of cash for goods involved, a ritualized
tradition that helps our market economy move every year around this time — which
begs a question: Can you give someone cannabis for Hannukah, or Christmas, or
Kwanzaa, or just because?

The answer is absolutely,
mostly, but there are some limitations to keep in mind, depending on where you
live and to whom you’re giving.

The Art & Science of Gifting Weed

Size-wise at least, cannabis
makes an ideal gift. Jars are easy to wrap (and make fine vessels for other
commodities once the contents are rolled up and smoked away), pre-rolls and
edibles fit in pockets as well as they fit in stockings or small boxes.
Cannabis is also popular, and if not legalized, at least decriminalized in most
places. You probably won’t shock or stigmatize your relatives or co-workers if
you gifted them a few grams from your home-grow, or dipped into the dispensary
on the way to the workplace gift swap to grab a chocolate bar — though if you
work at a school or children’s day-care, you risk both offending your officious
acquaintances and running afoul of the law.

Rule: It Must Be a Gift

Obviously, if cannabis is not
yet legal in your state, or if cannabis is legal only with a medical-cannabis
recommendation, two people who are not patients can’t legally exchange weed (though
it’s the possession itself and not the exchange, for no compensation, that’s
the violation).

But since legal cannabis is
new and cannabis laws are restrictive — more restrictive than laws around
alcohol or cigarettes, two substances to which weed is (unfairly) often compared
— gifting weed is a valuable technique beyond the holidays, because in most
situations and in most states, Michigan among them, the only way to transfer
cannabis from one person to another outside of the legal framework is with a

(In situations when the
monetary exchange is intended to cover the giver’s labor and materials, the
question gets fuzzier, but since this is a gifting guide and not a sales guide,
it’s not our concern.)

if you want to be legal — who doesn’t — you need to obey other quirks of local
law as well.

Rule: It Can’t Be Too Much

Every state that’s legalized cannabis has also established legal possession limits. These range, usually, from about one to two ounces.

In places where cannabis is
legal, how much you can give away depends on the possession limit in your
particular legal jurisdiction. Adults 21 and over in California, for example,
are allowed to possess up to 28.5 grams of cannabis flower — that is, exactly
one ounce — and 8 grams of concentrates.

In Michigan, “it is not unlawful to give away or otherwise transfer without remuneration, that is without compensation, up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to a person 21 years of age or older as long as the transfer is not advertised or promoted to the public,” as attorney Bob Hendricks explained to Fox-17 last year.

In California, “[t]here is nothing to worry about when it comes to adults giving away cannabis to other adults ages 21 and over for the holidays, as long as the quantities are within the limits of up to 28.5 grams of cannabis and 8 grams of concentrated cannabis,” as longtime cannabis attorney Omar Figueroa told Cannabis Now.

Rule: They Can’t Be Too Young

This should go without saying, but under all circumstances you must resist any urges to be the cool aunt, or the cool cousin, or the cool whatever, if you believe giving weed to someone under 21 is a cool act — because in addition to being sort of sleazy, giving cannabis to someone under 21 (or, much worse, under 18) is one of the few cannabis-related acts that carry severe penalties, including prison, in a legal state. Handing a joint to a 17-year-old could lead to a felony charge. As attorney Vikras Bajaj pointed out, the gift can also have serious implications for the receiver: They could be forced to pay a fine or complete community service just because you gave them weed. Don’t do it.

Other Rules Apply

By now, you probably get the idea: There are some laws to follow when gifting weed, just like there are rules to follow if you wanted to gift someone a carton of cigarettes, a nugget of plutonium, or other substances on which the government has affixed certain restrictions. As much as a box filled with sungrown MAC from Mendocino might be welcomed in Massachusetts, crossing state lines with legal cannabis is illegal! And we, as a cannabis publication, could never endorse conduct that is not legal. We just couldn’t. No. Can’t. Won’t.

Know the Givee

Finally, try to obey the
normal and sensible rules of gift-giving. Is giving this weed an appropriate
gift? Well, does the recipient like weed? Maybe that will dictate whether you
try out a high-CBD vape pen on mom or dad or bother with a weak edible to your
dabbed-out Wookie cousin.

You would not — or at least you should not — waste time and resources giving someone stuff they don’t need. Just as you would not give a Cutco set to a chef with a vast array of knives and you would not bother giving a sommelier a bottle of Charles Shaw (except as an ironic joke that still quickly wears thin) you wouldn’t offend an Emerald Cup-winning grower or a total weed snob with a jar of boof, unless you thought it was funny.

“I would be delighted if
gifted huge sparkling colas of biodynamic cannabis for the holidays!” Figueroa
said. “Branded mids? Not so much.”

TELL US,  have you ever given anyone cannabis as a gift?

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Gifting medical pollen – Overtaking legal genetics

When cannabis was initially legalized, Canadians were granted federal permission to legally grow their own cannabis, but without access to legal propagation materials. Producer’s enabled this restriction by simply not offering the commodity to the adult-use market – not until nearly two and a half months after cannabis was legalized. They finally became available when […]

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