U.S. House Appropriations Committee spending bill could strengthen Washington D.C. cannabis industry

U.S. House Appropriations Committee spending bill could strengthen Washington D.C. cannabis industry

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus a bipartisan registered Congressional Member Organization says that the “cannabis industry is here to stay.” Rep. Barbara Lee made the announcement in June, after the U.S. House Appropriations Committee pushed forward with a spending bill that contained essential protections for cannabis businesses.

Included in the Financial Services and General Government spending bill was the elimination of restrictive language initially introduced by Maryland Rep. Andy Harris that could now streamline the process of legalizing adult-use sales in Washington D.C., as well as language that would safeguard financial institutions who deal with legal cannabis companies.

“What’s not in this bill is also noteworthy, starting with objectionable riders from previous years that threatened home rule for the District of Columbia, such as the ban on D.C. using its own local funds to support abortion services, needle exchanges, and the legalization of [cannabis],” said New York-based committee chair Representative, Nita Lowey. 

Adult-use cannabis in Washington D.C. to be taxed at 17 percent 

Voters in Washington D.C. approved the possession and home cultivation of adult-use cannabis in 2014. However, previous regulatory language stifled the growth of Washington D.C.’s cannabis market, which is expected to be taxed at a rate of 17 percent; as per the details of the Safe Cannabis Sales Act that was proposed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in May 2019.

Currently awaiting review, the Act would enable consumers to purchase one ounce of cannabis flower on a daily basis in Washington D.C. Alternatively, consumers could purchase five grams of cannabis concentrate, 16 ounces of cannabis edibles or 72 ounces of cannabinoid products in liquid form on a daily basis.

The bill also prevents the United States Department of Treasury from penalizing financial institutions that offer services to legitimate cannabis businesses. Legal protections for financial institutions means that they could serve adult-use cannabis businesses in D.C. without negative repercussions. Furthermore, it would allow for home cannabis delivery, seal former misdemeanor cannabis possession convictions and create job opportunities in areas hardest hit by the failed War on Drugs.

Similar language was contained in the Safe and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act that gained approval by the House Committee on Financial Services. Now, SAFE is awaiting a vote on the House floor.

Additional elements featured in the new Financial Services and General Government spending bill

The Financial Services and General Government spending bill includes $762.1 million for the District of Columbia — a $47.8 million increase from the FY 2020 enacted level and $8.8 million more than the President’s budget request.

Of that amount, $40 million will be used to fund D.C. Resident Tuition Support; $4 million for HIV/AIDS Testing and Treatment to help reduce the risks of HIV/AIDS spreading across the District of Columbia; $8 million for infrastructure enhancements to the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority.

Aside from the elimination of a ban on the use of local funds to legalize cannabis, the bill also removes a ban on the use of local funds for abortion services and needle exchange programs. The bill now heads to the House Rules Committee for review.