Majority Of D.C. Voters Support Marijuana Legalization And Oppose Crackdown On Unregulated ‘Gifting’ Market

Respondents to a recent poll in Washington, D.C. believe marijuana should be legalized, and they oppose taking action against the cannabis "gifting" industry that has grown as a result of the lack of regulation.

Approximately 72% of likely voters support legalization, according to a survey commissioned by the I-71 Committee and conducted by Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies. In 2014, voters approved a cannabis reform law in the District, which was approved by voters at 66%.

For persons aged 21 and older, the initiative made it legal to possess small amounts of cannabis, grow it at home, and provide it to others. However, a congressional spending bill rider prevents D.C. from establishing a system of legal recreational sales, allowing an unregulated market to flourish and some businesses to provide customers "free" marijuana as a gift when they buy non-cannabis products and services as a legal workaround.

Concerns about the gifting loophole have been raised by local lawmakers and authorities, and a "Joint Cannabis Force" has just been established by several organizations to investigate merchants and ensure compliance. The intention was to begin those inspections this month, but for unknown reasons, that plan was postponed.

According to the new poll, 76% wanted the District to change its laws to create a more regulated market that permits sales, while 19% believed the government should close down the gift economy marijuana industry.

According to its mission statement, the i-71 Committee is "a coalition of stakeholders committed to crafting equitable, fair, and socially responsible cannabis legislation that encourages access for all citizens, industry leaders, and stakeholders."

Moreover, respondents were asked to rate how concerned they were about the possibility of an abolishing gift-giving enterprises. For instance, 84 % of respondents expressed fear that enforcement action might put persons of color at higher risk of facing legal ramifications, 70 % expressed concern that it would harm small companies, and 69 % expressed concern about an increase in gun violence.

Notably, 64% of potential voters said they'd be less likely to support a candidate who wants to liquidate the firms, and 63% said they oppose any Council moves to restrain the uncontrolled market.

However, the survey also indicated that most voters believe council members should be concentrating more on other concerns like lowering crime, supporting affordable housing, and increasing access to healthcare. This is despite the fact that support for regulating the cannabis industry in D.C. is robust. Respondents were least likely to rank regulating marijuana as a priority when asked to assess the relevance of 12 various policy problems.

The D.C. Council's closing of i-71 businesses will force the cannabis industry back onto the streets, according to Terrence White, chairman of the i-71 Committee. "Furthermore, District voters would not like D.C. to take action and punish our stores," he urged the council. It's not ideal at the moment, but punishment will only make matters worse, and we're here to find a fix.

Meanwhile, representatives from Washington D.C. wrote letters to the heads of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees pleading with them to remove the clause prohibiting municipal cannabis sales from the Fiscal Year 2023 budget bill.

According to estimates, the District sees more than $600 million in cannabis sales each year. The rider makes it difficult to assure consumer and public safety and jeopardizes the ability of legitimate medicinal cannabis businesses with operating permits in the District to make a profit. As a result, the great majority of these sales are uncontrolled.

The House removed the D.C. marijuana ban language from the pertinent FY 2023 funding bill in July. Although partisan differences have kept that chamber from acting on any of its budget bills so far this year, the Senate's proposal from the Democratic Appropriations Committee chairman likewise does not include the rider.

To enact a final measure, Congress has time until September 30—the conclusion of the current fiscal year. However, it's anticipated that lawmakers would approve a temporary continuing resolution that keeps everything as it is while negotiations are underway.

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