Good news as non-residents and international tourists in Washington can now self-certify as medical marijuana patients. Out-of-state visitors at least 21 years old can apply online and pay a $30 non-refundable fee to qualify. Cannabis tourism in the Nation’s capital city, Washington, is set to explode with the new bill signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Cannabis supporters in Washington have expressed their gladness at the new bill. They are optimistic that it would promote cannabis reforms across the country as well as induce similar actions in other municipalities in America.
Temporary Self-Certification For Non-Tourists in Washington
All citizens in Washington District have the right to self-certify under a bill passed during the summer. At the time, the bill served as a means to get around a congressional spending bill that prevents the government from using locally generated revenues to implement a recreational cannabis market. According to reports from June to this moment, ever since the reform became effective, registrations for medicinal cannabis have increased significantly.
The new bill has further strengthened the existing reforms by enabling even non-residents to get registered to buy cannabis from authorized dispensaries for a month (30 days). The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) will issue the license. Mayor Muriel Bowser is fixated on improving medical cannabis culture, and signing the bill, unanimously approved by the D.C council last month, places Washington among the top cannabis-friendly states in America.
Notably, patients enrolled in medical cannabis programs in other states are eligible for a complete registration, like Washington residents. Also, the bill raises the current possession limit from four to eight ounces. With the mayor’s signature, the emergency action is now operative and expires three months later.
Praise for the new policy
The National Holistic Healing Center’s founder, Dr. Chanda Macias, applauded the law change. The healing center is a medical marijuana dispensary in Washington, D.C.
Macias said that almost 20 million domestic visitors who come to Washington, D.C. annually will now be able to use medicinal marijuana while there. This will make plant-based medications more accessible to patients and bring new patients to the thriving local medical marijuana industry. She emphasized that Washington, D.C., is setting the pace for extending patient access to everyone, as seen by these most recent acts.
According to a survey conducted last month, voters in D.C. are firmly in favor of legalizing marijuana and are opposed to taking action against the “gifting” market for cannabis that has sprung up due to the lack of regulated cannabis sales. A 2014 law loophole allows for the gifting of cannabis and has allowed most of Washington’s cannabis businesses to operate in violation of DC medical marijuana laws. Representatives have condemned the practice, but they have backed off from taking action to look into the stores and individuals that engage in it.
More plans to increase patient’s access to medical cannabis
Although ABRA recently implemented a rule allowing temporary, 30-day patient registrations, leading to more than 5,000 registrations since August, it agrees there is still a need to increase patient access to medical cannabis for qualified non-resident visitors to the District of Columbia who are not registered in another jurisdiction’s medical cannabis program.
In the meantime, the mayor is considering a supplemental measure that would extend the duration of the permits to 225 days and has a few days to decide whether to move forward. The resolution stresses that several states, like Hawaii and Oklahoma, already permit visiting patients from other jurisdictions to register and get provisional patient registration papers from the state visiting to access hemp products.
ABRA announced the new rule’s effective date on Thursday, and the notification makes clear that it also pertains to travelers from other countries that visit the nation’s capital.
The federal government is also taking steps to reform legal cannabis legislation before the next general elections in 2024. To that effect, U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) urged President Joe Biden to go further by federally legalizing cannabis and allowing the District to establish a commercial cannabis market and grant pardons. This suggestion came after President Biden issued a statement pardoning Americans who had committed federal marijuana possession offenses and people who had broken the law in D.C earlier this month.
According to the representative, the continued local prohibition, which was upheld in Biden’s most recent two budget proposals, is a breach of Washington D.C’s home rule by a Democratic administration.
Washington’s medical cannabis program
Currently, any patient in Washington D.C, resident or not, can register themselves as a patient by completing a straightforward form without a physician’s referral. The self-certification procedure, enacted into law on July 6, appears to cause the ongoing sharp rise in registrations. Since the city began enabling citizens to self-certify without a doctor’s recommendation, the number of patients registered for medical marijuana in Washington, D.C., has continued to soar; in September alone, the program added roughly 1,500 additional patients.
Fourteen thousand four hundred sixty-eight people registered for medicinal marijuana in the District as of June. That immediately increased to 15,730 in July, 21,051 in August, and then increased by another nearly 1,500 during the next month. A total of 22,482 cannabis patients were registered in D.C as of the last week in September, which is 90 percent more than in October 2021 and nearly twice as many as the patient population last year.
From June to September, the number of medicinal cannabis patients in Washington, D.C., increased by 55%. Even more, according to ABRA”s retail sales data, DC’s seven registered dispensaries recorded sales worth over $2.9 million for September, of which $1.3 million can be attributed to non-residents.
Washington, D.C, has wisely chosen an alternative reform to make medical cannabis as affordable and available as possible. This move is set to boost the capital’s tourist sector and the overall economy. Cannabis supporters believe that with time President Biden will abide by his campaign pledges and effect more substantial reforms in the federal cannabis sector.
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