Three weeks after voters in Washington, D.C., overwhelmingly voted to legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital, the City Council approved legislation that charges D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) with regulating and licensing marijuana producers and retailers.
According to the legislation, the ABRA would have 6 months to write the regulations. After the regulations are written, they would begin accepting license applications so that recreational cannabis stores could open by 2016.
Licensing marijuana business was not included in Initiative 71, which legalized recreational marijuana. Instead, the licensing is part of a bill introduced last year by Council Member David Grosso. Not only does the bill would allow the ABRA to licensing marijuana businesses, but it also eliminate penalties for possessing two ounces or less of marijuana, for growing up to six plants at home, and for transferring small amounts to other adults without payment.
Grosso’s bill would combine medical and recreational marijuana into one industry regulated by ABRA. However it would also define different tax rates for medically prescribed marijuana (6%) and marijuana purchased for recreational use (15%). By comparison, Colorado collects a 15 percent excise tax AND a 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana. Washington state imposes a 25 percent tax at each of three levels.
So far only the sections of the bill which deal with licensing, regulation, and taxation, have been approved by City Council’s committee. The other 10 sections must be approved by two other committees before the bill can be considered by the entire D.C. Council.