Washington, D.C., residents have been legally able to possess, consume, home cultivate and gift cannabis since the district’s voters approved Initiative 71 in the November 2014 election to legalize adult-use cannabis.

City Council members have their hands tied when it comes to regulating and taxing commercial adult-use sales in the district, however, due to a rider introduced by U.S. Rep. Andy Harris in 2015 that stripped D.C.’s power to oversee a retail industry. Commonly referred to as the Harris rider, the provision has been in place ever since.

RELATED: D.C. Remains on Cannabis Sales Sideline in New Omnibus Bill

City Council does have the authority to regulate medical cannabis in the district, however, and has used that power to untangle some of the industry’s complexities.

Councilmembers unanimously voted June 28 to pass the Medical Marijuana Self-Certification Emergency Amendment Act of 2022 to allow residents 21 and older to self-certify their eligibility for medical cannabis without requiring a healthcare practitioner’s recommendation.

RELATED: D.C. Council Considers Medical Cannabis Cards for All 21+ Adults

City Council members considered the bill on an emergency basis, and it will take effect immediately, pending review from Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The bill aims to remove logistical barriers for patients and expand medical cannabis access  in the district. It also expedites the process of obtaining a medical cannabis card to one day if patients choose to visit the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) office to register.

ABRA will waive registration fees through Aug. 18.

Registered D.C. patients can purchase up to two ounces of cannabis, and the program offers reciprocity for medical cannabis patients in other states.

“By allowing residents 21+ to self-certify as medical cannabis patients, access to safe and legal medical cannabis will expand and residents will hopefully be deterred from obtaining potentially harmful ‘street’ cannabis from illegal sources,” DC Cannabis Trade Association Chair Linda Mercado Greene said in a public statement. “It is absolutely critical to have a safe, legal cannabis market so that those who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes are able to safely and reliably access their medicine.”

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