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Washington D.C. Remains Undecided about Marijuana

D.C. passed a recreational marijuana law back in 2014 that legalized the possession, growing, and gifting of limited amounts of recreational marijuana. What remains illegal, however, is the sale of it. It was still an open question as to where people would be able to buy the recreational marijuana that had just been made legal.

Local politicians, in league with the Department of Health for D.C., are in favor of fully legalizing and regulating marijuana sales. Congress, however, has prevented D.C. from going ahead with this by cutting off related funding. This funding remains questionable as Congress debates how they will be allocating spending over the course of the next fiscal year. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a D.C. Delegate and nonvoting member of the House, has been lobbying for regulations to be lifted.

D.C. blogger Joe Tierney, a.k.a. the "Gentleman Toker," has noted that entrepreneurs have been exploiting the area's laws pertaining to "gifting" as a way to promote their startup companies. For instance, they will sell products like food or clothing and throw in a marijuana "bonus" with every purchase.

The distributors aren't the only ones who are constantly looking for ways to skirt the system. Consumers too have found themselves struggling to tow the gray areas, particularly in situations involving real estate. Renters who use marijuana may find themselves at odds with their landlords and possibly even evicted. Similarly, renters who are in possession of marijuana may be hesitant to file legitimate complaints about their apartments for fear of retaliation from those who know they possess the pot.

Legalizing marijuana has reduced the number of arrests that are being made in the District, but there are still some issues insofar as race discrimination is concerned. For instance, before the new laws went into effect, about 91 percent of arrests involving the public consumption of marijuana involved black people. Now, that number has only been reduced to 85 percent. This unfortunately has not improved much.

As more states legalize recreational marijuana, more states have been jumping on the bandwagon to voice their support for legalizing it as well. The legalization of medicinal marijuana has been gaining support for a while now, but citizens have recently begun voicing their support for recreational marijuana as well. On July 1, 2017, Nevada became the fifth state to allow marijuana to be used for recreational purposes.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the law that would prevent the government from interfering with medical marijuana laws at the state level and in D.C. This approval flew in the face of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' request to do the exact opposite. Sessions is known to be staunchly opposed to the legalization of marijuana. Financial restrictions, or lack thereof, to marijuana laws in the District for the 2018 fiscal year are still being considered.

For now, though, distributors in D.C. are doing their best to skirt around the gray areas of the law. One of the authors of the law, Nikolas Schiller, argues that the success the distributors have been experiencing only speaks to the economic advancement that would be made possible if Congress allowed D.C. to establish a regulated market for marijuana.