The one-year anniversary of recreational marijuana legalization in Washington D.C. just passed, spurring a look at how things have gone in our nation’s capital so far. While D.C. is often mentioned along with the four states that have legalized beyond medical cannabis, it’s a unique situation in several ways.
The most obvious difference is that D.C. is a city, but a city unlike any other in the U.S. Much of its governance and regulation comes from the Federal U.S. Congress, a bizarre system to be sure, but the one in place nevertheless. This setup has allowed Congress to prevent the city from erecting any sort of regulatory framework to oversee cannabis sales; consequently, there are no retail cannabis sales.
This means you can grow and possess cannabis in D.C., but if you want to buy it you have to do so on the black market. A great benefit to dealers, but not much of one to legal consumers.
This is not to say there hasn’t been plenty of good news. For instance, between 2014 and 2015, arrests for marijuana possession dropped 98% in the District. Arrests for all marijuana offenses, including selling, went down 85%. That’s great progress in a short amount of time, and the full effects of legalization are not even being felt in the city.
Imagine the retail shops opening up and the jobs and economic activity they bring with them. Imagine the black market dealers being undercut and put out of business. Imagine the reduction in violence that comes with criminals being short on cash. These things need to happen in Washington D.C., but citizens are being governed for the most part by people who they didn’t even vote for.
Hopefully authorities in the city can find a way around Congress and unleash a true end to prohibition.