01 September 2022 |

Three 2022 cannabis news stories that still matter

By Kaitlin Domangue

D.C eliminates doctor’s recommendations 

The Washington D.C. council unanimously approved emergency legislation in June, allowing D.C. residents to immediately begin self-certifying for medical cannabis. 

The Medical Marijuana Self-Certification Emergency Amendment Act of 2022 (B24-0886) was passed to work around the “Harris rider”, a rider provision included in D.C’s annual budget proposal. 

This provision has been successfully introduced by Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland every year since 2014 – it prevents D.C. from regulating and taxing recreational cannabis. Which is definitely a politician thing to do. 

Medical cannabis, on the other hand, has been legal in Washington D.C. since 2011 and D.C. voters said yes to cannabis for personal use in 2014, but the regulation and taxation of it still isn’t allowed. 

B24-0886 is also an effort to work against the illicit market and the gifting trend popping up in D.C, where business owners gift cannabis with the purchase of another item to circumnavigate the ban on adult-use cannabis sales.

Unlike a similar failed bill in April, B24-0886 doesn’t have enforcement provisions cracking down on cannabis gifting in D.C, but it does acknowledge the safety and legal concerns that the gray market can bring, including selling to minors. 

“This emergency legislation moves only the portion of that prior legislation regarding self-certification. Specifically, it would allow medical marijuana patients 21 years of age and older to self-certify that they are utilizing marijuana for medical purposes,” the legislation reads. “Patients will still be formally registered in the medical marijuana program, issued a patient identification number, and recorded in ABRA’s private and secure ‘Metrc’ track-and-trace system. While not a panacea to the issues facing our legal marijuana market, this emergency legislation provides a small amount of relief by increasing the ability of medical marijuana patients to access the legal and regulated medical market.”

It’s a win for patients

This was a massive win for D.C. y’all, and subsequently – the rest of the country. 

Patients now have greater access to medical cannabis and hopefully, other states begin to follow. 

Medical cannabis is currently not covered under medical insurance because it’s federally illegal, and a doctor’s recommendation to obtain a card can cost hundreds of dollars. This bill eliminates that cost to see a physician. 

D.C. is one of the first U.S. jurisdictions, if not the first, to allow patients to self-certify. 

In February, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a bill allowing senior citizens to bypass a physician’s recommendation and self-certify, but this privilege now extends to everyone in D.C. over the age of 21. 

And, early data shows D.C.‘s efforts are working. Medical cannabis card registrations saw a roughly 9% growth from June to July, totaling 15,730 patients at the time of data collection. 

There’s also chatter about the rider provision not being included in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget legislation, meaning D.C. might introduce adult-use cannabis sales soon! 

Public libraries ask for cannabis revenue

I’ve talked about the cost-saving advantages of cannabis legalization in the healthcare industry before, while touching on the economic benefits legalization brings to local communities in general. 

Cannabis tax revenue is distributed directly to the local community. Colorado’s public school system has received millions of dollars in revenue since recreational cannabis was legalized several years ago. Illinois allocates a percentage to mental health services. 

In short: I’m a firm believer in the economic benefits of cannabis legalization, not just the medicinal benefits. I think it’s an incredible opportunity for every state. 

And I’m not alone. The EveryLibrary Institute published a paper in July arguing public libraries should seek out funding opportunities from legal states. 

Recently, cannabis tax dollars funded an $884,000 upgrade to Santa Ana’s main public library. The library now has a children’s patio with outdoor playground equipment and reading areas outside. 

At least one library is already seeing the benefits of cannabis tax dollars at work. Here’s what the EveryLibrary institute wrote in their recent paper advocating for cannabis dollars towards libraries: 

“Cannabis taxes are a huge potential source of funding that libraries should not be left out of,” the white paper reads. Libraries in states with current recreational cannabis should be actively working with state legislatures to allocate funding from tax revenue. In states that have not yet legalized recreational cannabis, libraries have an opportunity to anticipate and influence the future allocation of tax revenue.” 

The paper calls attention to how many legalization laws support direct funding to drug prevention programs and highlights how libraries “can also contribute resources to these kinds of initiatives, especially in communities that have been greatly impacted by the opioid epidemic and the War on Drugs.”

Libraries deserve cannabis dollars

I’m in full support of this initiative and wonder why this hasn’t been talked about more often.

The vast majority of public library funding comes from local sources. State and federal dollars usually make up the smallest portion of public library funding. 

It’s no secret that public libraries are a place of public service. 

Unhoused citizens, those in crisis, and people with addiction all turn to public libraries for a safe place to go during the day. That’s why the Ilsley Public Library in Vermont recently completed a training program teaching employees how to administer Narcan. 

Additionally, libraries can be used as a resource to educate the public about cannabis.  It just makes sense that cannabis dollars support libraries, too. 

Federal legalization bill introduced

Y’all. I didn’t even want to include this dumb story. 

Okay, it’s not dumb. Federal legalization and restoring the lives of people hurt by the War on Drugs is not dumb.

What *is* dumb is that we waited so many months for this bill to simply be introduced. And as we all expected, nothing has happened so far and I predict nothing will happen. 

This bill doesn’t have enough momentum. Federal legalization doesn’t have enough momentum. 

Sen. Chuck Schumer, Ron Wyden, and Cory Booker formally filed the long-awaited federal legalization and social equity bill in July – The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). 

It was set to be introduced before Congress in April, but Sen. Chuck Schumer delayed its release until before the August recess – so the deadline was actually met. I didn’t even think that would happen, tbh. 

Now that it’s been officially introduced, the bill must move through the legislative process before it becomes law. And – it’s hundreds of pages long, filled with information. I couldn’t begin to cover it all here. 

Here are the major points you need to know about this bill: 

  • Cannabis must be removed from the Controlled Substances Act within 180 days of the bill passing 
  • People with low-level federal cannabis convictions will have their records expunged within one year of the CAOA going into effect. Those currently in prison for cannabis will be allowed to petition the courts for relief
  • Small to mid-sized cannabis producers would be taxed a 5% excise tax – but this number would slowly increase to 12.5% after five years. Large businesses would start at 10% and increase to a maximum of 25%. (Heavily taxing cannabis producers doesn’t stop after federal legalization, apparently.)
  • It would create a regulatory framework, one in which the FDA, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) are heavily involved.

This bill would, overnight, change everything we know about the cannabis industry. But, states would still be allowed to opt-in or out of cannabis sales.

They can’t stop the transportation of cannabis products from passing through their jurisdiction, but those caught distributing cannabis in an illegal state can still face federal penalties. 

It’s unlikely to pass

I don’t foresee this bill passing the House and Senate any time soon. Federally legal cannabis is still a long game. 

Even before the bill was introduced, there was no momentum. It’s not like lawmakers just need a bill to legalize cannabis – they don’t want to legalize it. 

Congress has been deliberating on this issue for years. There’s also no guarantee that President Biden would approve the measure, which is the final step before a bill becomes law. 

State and local legislation is so impactful in absence of federal legislation, which is why moves like D.C.’s self-certification matter. And ironically, D.C. is the place where federal legalization goes to die.

Just another day in cannabis, y’all.