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marijuana

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Grosso champions greater access to D.C.’s medical marijuana program

For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso champions greater access to D.C.’s medical marijuana program

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today introduced legislation that would further improve access to the District of Columbia’s medical marijuana program for residents as another method of reducing opioid-related deaths.

“We are all concerned with the ongoing tragedy of D.C. residents dying from opioid overdoses and this legislation provides another tool to address that crisis: greater access to the District’s medical marijuana program,” said Grosso.

Since 2014, over 800 people have died as result of opioid-related overdoses, according to the D.C. Chief Medical Examiner. Two hundred and seventy-nine of those deaths were reported in 2017 alone, more than triple those reported in 2014.

Under the Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019 patients would be granted provisional registration and same-day access to medical marijuana like any other medicine.

Additionally, dispensaries would be allowed to establish safe use facilities so that patients can consume medical marijuana outside of their home, which would address the challenge that many patients face of having nowhere to consume.

Finally, the legislation also removes the plant count limit on cultivation centers to address ongoing supply issues and seeks to rectify negative impacts of the racist War on Drugs by allowing more residents affected by the misguided criminalization of marijuana to be employed in these businesses.

“Medical marijuana has been shown to be a viable alternative to the prescription of opioid painkillers, which can set people down the path to addiction,” Grosso said. “While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program here in D.C., we can do more to improve access for patients and reduce opioid reliance and overdose.”

A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that medical marijuana programs reduce opioid overdose death rates by as much as 25 percent. Americans for Safe Access also reported lower prescription rates of painkillers in states with medical marijuana programs.

Grosso also views the legislation as an appropriate response the negative effects of congressional interference with D.C.’s local efforts to regulate marijuana.

“D.C. residents are being diverted from the medical marijuana program to the unregulated, easy to access, underground market,” Grosso said. “That is posing real problems for the small business owners in the medical marijuana community, and our whole medical marijuana system could be in jeopardy if we don’t take action.”

Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Brianne Nadeau joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019

Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 22, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Brianne K. Nadeau

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998 to authorize the dispensation of medical marijuana to and use by qualifying patients over the age of 21 at safe-use facilities, to allow qualifying patients, upon application to the Mayor for a medical marijuana registration identification card, to immediately purchase medical marijuana on a provisional basis, subject to the approval or rejection of a registration application, to eliminate the limit on the number of marijuana plants that cultivation centers are permitted to grow, and to allow for the delivery of medical marijuana to qualified patients.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today I am introducing the Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019.

We are all concerned with the ongoing tragedy of D.C. residents dying from opioid overdoses—this bill is another part of the effort to stop that crisis.

Research shows that states with robust medical marijuana programs have lower rates of opioid overdose deaths.

While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program over the past few years, there is more we can do to expand access for patients, and bring more people into the regulated market.

This bill would allow for same day access to medical marijuana just like any other medicine by allowing for a provisional registration when a patient submits their paperwork to the Department of Health.

The bill would allow dispensaries to establish safe use facilities so that patients can consume medical marijuana outside of their home, which would address the challenge that many patients face of having nowhere to consume.

There are a number of other improvements to the program as well, such as removing the plant count limit, and allowing more residents affected by the war on drugs to be employed in these businesses.

Improving access makes sense when we are in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis, but it also is an appropriate response to the challenges we face as a result of congressional interference with our local efforts to regulate marijuana.

Due to Representative Harris’ rider on our budget, residents are being diverted from the medical marijuana program to the unregulated, easy to access, underground market.

That is posing real problems for the small business owners in the medical marijuana community, and our whole medical marijuana system could be in jeopardy if we don’t take action.

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Dept. of Corrections response leaves unanswered questions on employees in medical marijuana programs

In November, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Corrections to inquire about the Department’s policy and practices for drug and alcohol testing of employees. Specifically, the councilmember was interested in whether or not DOC was taking into account employees’ enrollment in medical marijuana programs as part of such testing.

“If an employee, for example, is undergoing treatment for cancer and is prescribed medical marijuana by a doctor to help with the side effects of treatment, it seems unreasonable and inappropriate that the employee would be penalized, or even subject to termination, because of seeking such medical care,” Grosso wrote.

After a delayed response, Director Quincy Booth laid out DOC’s practices and procedures and its adherence to District law. However, the response sidestepped a question specifically aimed at how DOC takes into account an employees enrollment in the medical marijuana program, instead focusing on how DOC complies, as other D.C. agencies do, with the impact of Initiative 71.

Initiative 71 dealt with recreational, not medical, marijuana.

The D.C. Department of Human Resources specifically sets out an exception for medical marijuana in District Personnel Manual Instruction No. 4-34, similar to exceptions for other prescription drugs

Councilmember Grosso will follow up with the Department of Corrections and the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety to ensure District government employees in the medical marijuana program are treated equally to those who require other prescription drugs for medical purposes.

Read Councilmember Grosso’s letter and DOC’s responses below.

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New hope for Grosso’s bill to legalize marijuana sales in D.C.

For Immediate Release:
January 8, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

New hope for Grosso’s bill to legalize marijuana sales in D.C.

Washington, D.C. – With control of Congress changing hands, Councilmember David Grosso’s legislation to legalize, tax, and regulate the sale of marijuana in the District of Columbia–reintroduced today–may have new hope.

“Since D.C. voters approved Initiative 71 to decriminalize recreational marijuana we have seen marijuana-related arrests plummet, representing thousands of District residents who were spared needless involvement in the judicial system,” Grosso said. “The logical next step, to continue to reduce arrests and to bring marijuana totally out of the shadows, is to set up a strong tax and regulatory system.”

In the newest version of the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act, Grosso included new provisions intended to remedy the wrongs of the misguided, racist War on Drugs.

“The War on Drugs was a failure—it was increasing our mass incarceration problem and not helping with our drug dependency problem. Further, the data also has consistently shown that the War on Drugs has been racist in its implementation,” said Grosso. “It’s a racial justice issue. It’s not enough that we change these policies, we also have to proactively heal the communities most negatively impacted.”

The bill allocates a portion of the funds from the taxes on marijuana to: drug abuse services and prevention efforts; supporting long-term, African-American, formerly incarcerated, and other residents affected by criminalization of marijuana to own or work at these businesses; and giving grants to communities impacted most by criminalization. It would also automatically expunge criminal records solely involving marijuana.

Ten states have legalized the sale of marijuana. The District was prohibited from using local tax dollars to establish a tax and regulate scheme by Congress, which has attached a provision in federal budgets since 2014 that has left D.C. in limbo on recreational marijuana.

“This status quo has led to a confusing and problematic state of affairs with residents and businesses unclear on what is legal, what is not, and wondering how it can be that it is legal to possess marijuana but not to buy or sell it. We need to fix this,” Grosso said.

Grosso has introduced a form of this legislation in every Council Period since 2013. This time, however Democrats control the House of Representatives, where the rider on federal budgets has always originated.

“The new reality on Capitol Hill means that chances of D.C. legalizing marijuana sales are greater than ever,” Grosso said.

At-Large Councilmembers Anita Bonds and Robert White, and Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, signed on as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2019

Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2019

Introduced: January 8, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, and Brianne K. Nadeau

BILL TEXT (as introduced) | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To legalize the possession, consumption, display, purchasing, or transporting of marijuana and marijuana-infused products for personal use, not in public, for persons over the age of 21; to establish that possession, consumption, display, purchasing, or transporting of marijuana and marijuana-infused products shall not constitute a civil or criminal offense under District law or be a basis for seizure or forfeiture of assets under District laws, for persons under the age of 21; to amend the District of Columbia Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1981 to decriminalize certain amounts of marijuana and marijuana-infused products for personal use; to amend the Drug Paraphernalia Act of 1982 to strike certain paraphernalia related to marijuana use from the provision; to amend Title 25 of the District of Columbia Official Code to establish the licensing and regulation infrastructure for the production, sale, consumption, and testing of retail marijuana and retail marijuana-infused products in the District of Columbia; to establish a dedicated marijuana fund, which shall consist of all sales tax and excise tax revenue from retail marijuana; to direct all retail marijuana license fees, penalties, forfeitures, and all other monies, income, or revenue received by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration from retail marijuana-related activities; to establish a tax on the gross receipts of retail marijuana sales and on the first sale or transfer of unprocessed retail marijuana in the District of Columbia; to clarify the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Amendment Act of 2010 maintaining each regulation, standard, rule, notice, order and guidance promulgated or issued by the Mayor, except where inconsistent with this act, and the rights of any person holding a license pursuant to that legislation; and to amend Title 18 of D.C. Municipal Regulation to adjust allowances of THC concentration while operating a motor vehicle.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today I am also introducing the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2019, along with Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, and Brianne Nadeau.

When I introduced the first version of this bill in September 2013 no one was willing to co-introduce or co-sponsor it.

At that time it was unclear whether or not decriminalization of marijuana would pass the Council.

But the number of arrests and the racial disparities were simply too compelling for us not to act.

In the years since, thankfully, this Council did pass decriminalization and voters approved Initiative 71 with almost 70% of the vote.

In that time we have seen marijuana-related arrests plummet, representing thousands of District residents who were spared that needless involvement in the judicial system.

Based off the data from before and after these policy changes, we know that the War on Drugs was a failure—it was increasing our mass incarceration problem, and not helping with our drug dependency problem.

The data also has consistently shown that the War on Drugs has been racist in its implementation, so we understand that changing these policies is a racial justice issue.

The logical next step, to continue to reduce arrests and to bring marijuana totally out of the shadows is to set up a strong tax and regulatory system.

The legislation I’m introducing today does that, and it includes important provisions to help repair the harm of the War on Drugs, including business incubation and technical assistance to ensure those formerly targeted by criminalization can benefit from the legalization of marijuana.

The bill also incorporates lessons from other jurisdictions that have moved forward with the regulation of recreational marijuana over the past few years.

Colorado, Washington state, Oregon, Alaska, California, Nevada, the list goes on--all these states have legal sales of marijuana, but we in D.C. do not, because in late 2014 Congress prohibited us from spending any of our local tax dollars to set up such a taxation and regulation system.

So this is a home rule question as well as a question of human rights, racial justice, and wise use of criminal justice resources.

This status quo has led to an confusing and problematic state of affairs with residents and businesses unclear on what is legal, what is not, and wondering how it can be that it is legal to possess marijuana but not to buy or sell it. We need to fix this.

With change in control of the House of Representatives, there is now hope that the rider will be removed.

It has been my stance that we should deliberate and vote on this bill regardless of the rider and invite the federal government to arrest us for doing our jobs.

But I know not everyone has the appetite for that, so hopefully with the rider gone, we can move forward with this legislation.

In any case, we should push back every time that Congress singles us out and demand that they let us, elected by the residents of the District of Columbia, decide on local issues.

This Council should be unapologetic in pursuing what is best for our constituents and we must stand up to the meddlers in Congress and the White House.

Thank you and I welcome co-sponsors.

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Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017

Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: September 19, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Robert White, Brianne K. Nadeau

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998 to increase access to the program by qualified patients by establishing same-day registration and allowing patients to qualify without a doctor’s referral and delivery to patients, establish safe-use treatment facilities to allow consumption outside of the home, allow dispensaries and cultivation centers to relocate and expand operations to meet patient demand, and amend requirements for licensees.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

I am introducing the Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017, and I thank Councilmembers Gray, Nadeau, and Robert White for joining me as co-introducers.

This legislation, along with the previous bill, will further bolster our responses to the opioid crisis.

Research shows that states with robust medical marijuana programs have lower rates of opioid overdose deaths.

While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program over the past few years, there is more we can do to expand access for patients, and bring more people into the regulated market.

This bill would allow for same day access to medical marijuana just like any other medicine by allowing for a provisional registration when a patient submits their paperwork to the Department of Health.

It would also allow patients who may not have a primary care provider, or whose doctor does not want to recommend medical marijuana, to self-certify that they are seeking medical cannabis.

The bill would allow dispensaries to establish safe use facilities so that patients can consume medical marijuana outside of their home, which would address the challenge that many patients face of having nowhere to consume.

There are a number of other improvements to the program included as well, such as requiring that employees or owners of medical marijuana businesses be D.C. residents, removing the plant count limit, and allowing more residents affected by the war on drugs to be employed in these businesses.

Improving access makes sense when we are in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis, but it also is an appropriate response to the challenges we face as a result of congressional interference with our local efforts to regulate marijuana.

Due to Representative Harris’ rider on our budget, residents are being diverted from the medical marijuana program to the unregulated, easy to access, underground market.

That is posing real problems for the small business owners in the medical marijuana community, and our whole medical marijuana system could be in jeopardy if we don’t take action.
 

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Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2017

Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2017

Introduced: January 10, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmember Robert White, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau

Summary: To legalize the possession, consumption, display, purchasing, or transporting of marijuana and marijuana-infused products for personal use, not in public, for persons over the age of 21;  to establish that possession, consumption, display, purchasing, or transporting of marijuana and marijuana-infused products shall not constitute a civil or criminal offense under District law or be a basis for seizure or forfeiture of assets under District laws, for persons under the age of 21; to amend the District of Columbia Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1981 to decriminalize certain amounts of marijuana and marijuana-infused products for personal use; to amend the Drug Paraphernalia Act of 1982 to strike certain paraphernalia related to marijuana use from the provision; to amend Title 25 of the District of Columbia Official Code to establish the licensing and regulation infrastructure for the production, sale, consumption, and testing of retail marijuana and retail marijuana-infused products in the District of Columbia; to establish a dedicated marijuana fund, which shall consist of all sales tax and excise tax revenue from retail marijuana; to direct all retail marijuana license fees, penalties, forfeitures, and all other monies, income, or revenue received by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration from retail marijuana-related activities; to establish a tax on the gross receipts of retail marijuana sales and on the first sale or transfer of unprocessed retail marijuana in the District of Columbia; to clarify the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Amendment Act of 2010 maintaining each regulation, standard, rule, notice, order and guidance promulgated or issued by the Mayor, except where inconsistent with this act, and the rights of any person holding a license pursuant to that legislation; and to amend Title 18 of D.C. Municipal Regulation to adjust allowances of THC concentration while operating a motor vehicle.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today I am also introducing the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2017, along with Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau and Robert White.

When I introduced the first version of this bill in September 2013 none of my colleagues were willing to be co-introducers or co-sponsors.

At the time it was unclear whether or not decriminalization of marijuana would pass. 

But the numbers and the racial disparities were simply too compelling for us not to act. 

In the years since, I am proud that this Council did pass decriminalization and that voters approved Initiative 71 with almost 70% of the vote.

In that time we have seen marijuana-related arrests plummet, representing thousands of District residents who were spared that needless involvement in the judicial system.

Based off the data from before and after these policy changes, we know that the War on Drugs was a failure—it was increasing our mass incarceration problem, and not helping with our drug dependency problem.

The data also has consistently shown that the War on Drugs is racist in its implementation, so we also understand that changing these policies is a racial justice issue.

The logical next step, to continue to reduce arrests and to bring marijuana totally out of the shadows is to set up a strong tax and regulate system.

The legislation I’m introducing today would do just that, and it incorporates lessons from other jurisdictions that have moved forward with the regulation of recreational marijuana over the past few years.

Colorado, Washington state, Oregon, Alaska, California, Nevada, the list goes on--all these states have legal sales of marijuana, but we in D.C. do not, because in late 2014 Congress prohibited us from spending any of our local tax dollars to set up such a taxation and regulation system.

So this is a home rule question as well as a question of human rights, racial justice, and wise use of criminal justice resources.

The Harris Rider is a reminder of our second-class status—Congress cannot prohibit any of the fifty states from legalizing marijuana as they see fit, but Representative Harris and the leadership on the Hill has no problem undermining the work of this Council.

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