New DC bill would open the cannabis industry to formerly incarcerated residents

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A DC councilman wants to give those with cannabis convictions a chance they currently don’t have

Washington, DC councilman Robert White (D) introduced a bill that would allow formerly incarcerated people to participate in the medical cannabis market. White said, “no reason why those who’ve paid their debt to society should be locked out of this industry any longer.”

The bill would allow cannabis industry participation by people with felony convictions and establish two programs to promote cannabis business ownership by so-called “returning citizens.” One would provide “application fee waiver, technical assistance with the application, and assistance with applying for any required license” for those seeking a marijuana license for a business with majority ownership by formerly incarcerated individuals. The other program would offer “assistance in developing a business plan and a plan for raising capital for approved applicants” for businesses with at least 51 percent “returning citizen” ownership.

It would repeal a section of the current city code that states, “No director, officer, member, incorporator, agent, or employee of a dispensary, cultivation center, or testing laboratory that has access to the medical marijuana at the dispensary, cultivation center, or testing laboratory shall have a felony conviction; provided, that the Mayor shall not disqualify any of the that forgoing individuals solely for a felony conviction of possession with intent to distribute marijuana that occurred before July 17, 2014.”

Lawmakers recently approved legislation protecting local government employees against workplace discrimination for legal use of cannabis, and advocates seeking the legalization of recreational cannabis sales in DC. Voters legalized the low-level possession and cultivation of marijuana for adult use in 2014, but retail sales have been held up due to a federal spending bill rider that has been renewed by Congress. DC voters will vote on a ballot measure to decriminalize plant- and fungi-based psychedelics in November.