Pot sales may be legalized in DC now that Democrats have the House

WASHINGTON — Now that Democrats control the House of Representatives, D.C. could have the ability to change its marijuana laws, potentially allowing for legal pot sales in the District.

During a news conference Wednesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser said it was something she would push for in early 2019.

“We will prepare a tax-and-regulate scheme to present to the council,” Bowser said, referring to the sale of recreational marijuana.

Possessing small amounts of pot for recreational use was made legal in 2014 under the ballot measure “Initiative 71,” but actions by Republicans in Congress ensured that selling the drug remained against the law.

Maryland’s Rep. Andy Harris, the main Republican known for leading the effort to limit Initiative 71, will no longer have a majority in the House following Democratic gains in this week’s midterm elections.

Bowser and other city leaders hope Democrats will help them loosen the federal restrictions.

“We have an untenable situation,” said Bowser. “As long as we have the ability to possess marijuana, which is our law, we also need the ability to procure marijuana legally, which we don’t have now.”

Under current law, District residents over 21 are allowed to grow and use marijuana and possess up to two ounces.

Residents can legally give marijuana away, as long as there is no payment made or any other type of exchange of goods or services.

Some have tried to get around the prohibition on sales by hosting “giveaway” events where marijuana vendors sell customers a small item, such as a sticker, and then give the customer pot as a “free gift.”

Although, police have made clear they will not tolerate that.

“Distribution of marijuana is illegal for anything of value,” D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham told WTOP earlier in the year. “If we find that someone is trying to circumvent the law or if someone is distributing marijuana for something of value, then we will be making arrests.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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