The non-voting member of Congress for the nation’s capital urged colleagues Friday to include language in the next coronavirus relief bill legalizing marijuana sales in Washington, D.C.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s sole representative on Capitol Hill, said D.C. was denied $750 million in federal assistance because it was classified in the last coronavirus relief bill as a territory rather than a state, resulting in a shortfall the Democrat proposed overcoming by allowing D.C. to legalize and tax retail marijuana sales.
“At this moment of unparalleled need, D.C. should be able to collect tax revenue from all available sources, like every other jurisdiction, including from recreational marijuana, which is believed to be widely used in the District,” Ms. Holmes Norton, a Democrat, said in a statement.
District residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2014, placing D.C. alongside 11 states where adults can currently use and possess cannabis for non-medical purposes.
And while nine of those states have gone further by legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana, efforts to do the same in D.C. have stalled because of objections from Congress.
District law requires approval from Congress before taking effect, and Republicans on the Hill opposed to D.C. legalizing marijuana sales have prevented it from happening.
Echoing previous calls for Congress to reverse course, Ms. Holmes Norton added that allowing D.C. to commercialize recreational marijuana would create a “critical source of tax revenue in our time of need.”
“While I am working for a retroactive fix in the next coronavirus bill, it is imperative that Congress also repeal the D.C. recreational marijuana commercialization rider in the next bill to help D.C. shore up its finances,” said Ms. Holmes Norton. “It is beyond unreasonable that congressional interference keeps only the District from commercializing recreational marijuana, while all other jurisdictions are free to do so.”
The $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed last month by Congress includes upwards of $1.25 billion in funding for each of the 50 states, but D.C. was allocated only around $500 million because it was classified as a territory alongside Puerto Rico and Guam.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, spoke out against the classification afterward and said that the failure to treat D.C. as a state “must be fixed retroactively in the next bill to respond to the coronavirus.”
D.C. has a population of roughly 700,000, which is more populous than either Wyoming or Vermont.
More than 900 cases of COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, have been confirmed within the District.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, said Friday that she anticipates up to 93,000 people within the District will contract COVID-19 before the pandemic is over.