The D.C. Council heard testimony Friday on one bill to amend regulations on medical marijuana and another that would legalize the growing, production and sale of recreational cannabis in the District.
More than 100 people signed up to speak. Among them, Otto Girr, speaking for ABC Metro Washington, a construction industry association. Girr wanted the council to “exempt safety-sensitive industries” from prohibitions on zero-tolerance drug policies in the workplace.
During the hearing, Girr told Council Chair Phil Mendelson, “ABC Metro Washington doesn’t have a position on the full legalization of cannabis use,” but given that there is no single test for impairment when someone has used marijuana, Girr told Mendelson, “We just don’t know how we can keep the job safe.”
Ed Weidenfeld, a former Reagan Administration official who is co-founder of Phyto Cultivation, LLC, a marijuana cultivation business and who has Parkinson’s disease, explained cannabis is part of his therapeutic regimen.
“This is not a recreational luxury for us; it is a critical part of maintaining the quality of our lives,” he said.
Kris Furnish, a D.C. resident and activist told the council that the District ought to have a facility, where marijuana can be tested “to verify the products are safe for human consumption,” and she said restrictions on where and how residents can obtain medical marijuana ought to be eased.
“Just like someone can go buy a bottle of Tylenol without a doctor’s recommendation, we should be able to self-certify to purchase cannabis from a licensed medical dispensary,” Furnish said.
Part of the Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Act of 2021 includes provisions aimed at providing opportunities for people who had been previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses.
Doni Crawford, a senior policy analyst with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute offered amendments to the bill, including a proposal to “devote all cannabis tax revenue” and licensing fees to community reinvestment and help for residents making the transition from previous incarceration to life back in their communities.
Nikolas Schiller, co-founder of DC Marijuana Justice, told the council that licensing for marijuana sales should be modeled after D.C.’s alcohol licensing program.
“We want parity,” he wrote in testimony submitted to the council. Schiller suggested the council should “drastically expand the number of licenses being offered and lower the license fees.”
Friday’s hearing was the first for the two bills, and comes at a time when D.C. could be free to act without the roadblock of a years-old Congressional rider that barred the District from regulating and taxing recreational marijuana.
The so-called “Harris rider” is named for Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican, who has long opposed D.C.’s efforts to allow the use and sale of recreational marijuana.