Key GOP Congressman Says Washington, D.C. Should Be Able To Legalize Marijuana Sales Without Federal Interference
A top GOP federal lawmaker says that if Washington, D.C. wants to legalize marijuana sales, it should be allowed to do so without congressional interference.
Rep. James Comer (R-KY), chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, said on Wednesday that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) raised the congressional rider blocking her District from enacting a commercial cannabis market during a meeting focused on local crime issues.
“We’re looking at everything. We’ve got our policy people looking at that,” Comer said, adding that Bowser previously called his attention to the marijuana sales blockade during a hearing in his committee in May.
At the time, the congressman said he hadn’t heard about the issue and would review it. Asked specifically about whether he supports allowing the District to tax and regulate cannabis on Wednesday, he told NBC Washington that “if that’s what Washington D.C. wants, yeah.”
Comer vaguely alluded to a Senate bill that he suggested could be used as a vehicle to enact the reform, but it’s unclear what he was referencing. Advocates have generally pushed for the simple removal of the appropriations rider that’s been annually renewed for years even though D.C. voters approved legalization at the ballot in 2014.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) told the chairman’s committee back in March that “congressional interference” in local laws on issues like cannabis threatens the city’s ability to “address crime and public safety.”
While Comer is now expressing interest in lifting the rider, the GOP-controlled House Rules Committee blocked an amendment to the underlying appropriations bill covering Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) last month that would have removed the rider from the legislation.
The ban was kept in both the Republican majority House and Democratic majority Senate base bills that moved through each chamber’s respective Appropriations Committee over the summer. President Joe Biden’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget request that he released in March also maintained the D.C. rider for the third year in a row.
As a partial workaround to the issue, D.C. lawmakers have passed various legislation to simplify access to the city’s medical cannabis program, including allowing people to self-certify as medical marijuana patients. That applies to non-residents, too.
Bowser also signed legislation in October that allows medical marijuana patients to submit products directly to labs for testing—and also let regulators issue temporary cannabis patient registrations to non-residents that last for up to a year instead of 30 days.
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Meanwhile, a D.C. law went into effect in July that bans most private workplaces from firing or otherwise punishing employees for marijuana use during non-work hours.
The reform is designed to expand on a previous measure lawmakers approved to protect local government employees against workplace discrimination due to their use of medical cannabis by covering workers in private businesses.
A coalition of local, state and national advocacy organizations asked the U.S. attorney general last year to formally adopt a policy of non-enforcement to allow the District to legalize marijuana sales even in light of the ongoing congressional ban.
A poll released last year found that D.C. voters strongly support marijuana legalization and oppose a crackdown on the cannabis “gifting” market that’s emerged in the absence of regulated sales.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.