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Mayor Bowser Unveils Legislation to Establish Legal Sales of Marijuana to Enhance Safety, Advance Equity, and Provide Clarity

Thursday, May 2, 2019

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled the Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2019 – legislation that allows for the sale of recreational cannabis in Washington, DC. The bill enhances public health and safety, provides clarity on the use of cannabis and cannabis products, and advances equity to ensure that the benefits of the new regime go to DC’s most vulnerable communities through jobs and investments in housing.

“In addition to providing safety and clarity, the Safe Cannabis Sales Act will promote equity by ensuring that the beneļ¬ts of this new system – from jobs to revenue – go to communities that have been disproportionately hurt by marijuana criminalization,” said Mayor Bowser. “For far too long the possession of marijuana has been a pipeline to prison, especially for black men in DC and across the nation. Today, we are taking a bold step to replace that pipeline with a pathway to prosperity.”

Mayor Bowser’s legislation follows through her on her commitment to fulfill the wishes of DC voters when they overwhelmingly passed Initiative 71, which legalized adult possession and home use of marijuana. Voters passed the initiative with the understanding that DC would then set up a tax and regulate system. Before the Council could enact such a system, Congress stepped in and imposed a rider on DC’s appropriations bill, prohibiting DC from using its local funds to fully enact Initiative 71 in a safe and regulated manner.


Reinvests tax revenue in housing programs

  • Revenues collected through sales tax on cannabis will be invested back into the community, focusing most on areas hardest hit by the criminalization of marijuana.
  • After first three months of implementation, 100% of sales and tax revenues will be dedicated to housing programs.

Expand job and business opportunities for DC residents, including those most affected by prohibition

  • Requires at least 60% of licensed employees are DC residents
  • Requires at least 60% of owners of each new license are DC residents
  • Individuals with prior misdemeanors are allowed to work at licensed facilities
  • Creates additional jobs in auxiliary services to support the new industry (e.g. delivery, security, accounting, etc.)
  • Licenses to be distributed across all eight wards and not concentrated in designated zones
  • Preference points along established Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) lines, benefiting veterans, small and disadvantaged businesses

Automatic record sealing for most marijuana offenses within one year of enactment

  • Record sealing will reduce barriers for residents to find employment, secure housing, take out loans, and fully participate as members of the community.


  • Creates a safe, legal marketplace, driving down the demand for illegal drugs which can cause violence in DC neighborhoods
  • Moves cannabis into secure, regulated establishments where products will be free of harmful chemicals and pesticides
  • Enables stricter enforcement of restrictions on sales and marketing to minors, similar to alcohol sales


What to Expect as a Consumer:

  • Must be at least 21 years old and present valid government identification to legally enter a cannabis establishment and purchase products
  • Limits daily purchase to 1 ounce of usable cannabis flower, five grams of cannabis concentrate, 16 ounces of cannabis infused edibles, or 72 ounces of cannabinoid product in liquid form per day
  • Creates the ability to purchase products online for delivery to a residential address
  • Taxes cannabis and cannabis products at a rate of 17% at the point of sale
  • Prohibits consumption in public spaces, such as sidewalks, parks, schools, roadways, and cars
  • Prohibits smoking in any workplace
  • Prohibits the use of cannabis at bars and other licensed alcohol and tobacco establishments

What to Expect as a Vendor:

  • For six months after enactment, applications for licenses for off-premise retailers and cultivators will be first opened to those who already possess a medical marijuana license
  • Five types of licenses which will be valid for a term of three years, renewable, and limited based on demand: cultivator, manufacturer, distributor, off-premise retailer, and testing facility
  • A requirement of 60% of ownership for each new licensee and 60% of employees must be DC residents
  • Public comment and ANCs feedback during the application process
  • A seed-to-sale tracking system
  • Continuation of a medical marijuana regime, taxed at a lower rate than recreational marijuana
  • The regulator will be Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), renamed the Alcohol Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA)