In the proposed FY22 Financial Services and General Government spending bill, which includes provisions relating to the District of Columbia’s budget, the House Appropriations Committee omitted an existing provision that prevents Washington, DC from implementing an adult-use cannabis consumer marketplace. The bill additionally included language that would create limited protections for banking institutions that provide services to state-licensed marijuana businesses.
The District legalized marijuana possession and home cultivation under a voter initiative in 2014, but Congress through the imposition of a budget rider has prevented the local government from using its resources to create a licensed and transparent commercial sales program.
Notably, when the Biden Administration released their proposal spending package earlier this year, the budget included this restriction. At the time, DC Representative and cannabis policy reform champion Eleanor Holmes Norton said, “I am having a hard time reconciling the administration’s strong support for D.C. statehood, which would give D.C. not only voting representation in Congress but also full local self-government, with a budget that prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds on recreational marijuana commercialization. With Democrats controlling the White House, House and Senate, we have the best opportunity in over a decade to enact a D.C. appropriations bill that does not contain any anti-home-rule riders.”
The omission of the DC rider acknowledges the local will of the residents of the District, who overwhelmingly favor retail marijuana sales. The only reason the District is unable to defy the federal government’s marijuana prohibition policies in the same way that other states have is because it lacks statehood and is under direct oversight from Congress.
In the previous two years, the House appropriations package has excluded the DC rider, only to have it included in the final package by the then-Republican controlled Senate Appropriations Committee under Chairman Shelby (R-AL).
Now that the Senate has changed partisan control in the 117th Congress, it is up to Senate Chairman Leahy to honor his commitment to respect the rights of DC citizens and follow the lead of the House to ensure that the DC rider is not in the final bill sent to President Biden’s desk.
You can read NORML’s full memo on the appropriations process here.
Please send a message to your federal lawmakers and urge them to use the appropriations process to restrict the ability of the federal government to interfere with legalization efforts in DC and all 50 states.