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Washington, D.C. Council Approves 4/20 Medical Marijuana Tax Holiday

Leaders in Washington, D.C. have approved legislation to suspend taxes on medical marijuana around the 4/20 cannabis celebration, declaring a tax holiday on purchases from April 15 through April 28.

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The District Council approved the tax holiday unanimously on a voice vote on Tuesday, also taking action on a number of other cannabis-related proposals, such as a proposed dispensary buffer zone around schools in commercial and industrial zones.

“The popular tax holiday is critical to the District’s effort to attract qualifying patients back to the legal market as well as sustainable and viable medical cannabis program,” said Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (I), who introduced the measure on behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).

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The legislation also extends the period of validity for medical marijuana patient and caregiver registration cards to six years and clarifies the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration’s (ABCA) authority to close down unlicensed and unregulated retailers.

The change authorizes ABCA to “summarily close an unlicensed retailer where the continued operations of the unlicensed retailer presents an imminent danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the public,” according to a letter to the council from Bowser.

An amendment also adopted unanimously by the Council adjusted language in an effort to ensure ABCA has the ability to investigate licensed medical marijuana businesses.

In addition to encouraging patients to stay within D.C.’s regulated medical marijuana system, the letter says the tax holiday bill also supports the medical marijuana industry.

A prior medical cannabis tax holiday was included in a 2022 bill designed to help address rising cannabis costs at licensed dispensaries and combat “the continuing threat posed by illicit cannabis storefronts and delivery services,” according to a companion resolution.

Members of the panel said roughly 200 unlicensed dispensaries currently exist in the District, and about 70 of those have applied to transition into the regulated market.

In separate action on Tuesday, the council also defeated a proposal that would have adjusted rules around locating medical marijuana dispensaries near schools. Members also considered a measure to extend the District’s cannabis enforcement authority while Congress reviews a regulation bill adopts by the council earlier this year.

Retailers must already be 300 feet from schools or recreation centers, but a recent policy exempts certain medical cannabis retailers from that requirement if they’re located in a commercial or industrial zone.

“This emergency legislation would remove that exception and prohibit all medical cannabis retailers from locating within 300 feet of schools or recreation centers,” explained Councilmember Brooke Pinto (D), noting that the bill would “allow affected applicants to change their locations without negatively impacting their locations.”

The change would reportedly affect two pending medical dispensary license applications with proposed locations within 300 feet of schools, though some council members said only one business would be impacted.

McDuffie said he couldn’t support the bill.

“It is tough work to find a location,” he said, pointing out that D.C. real estate “is not readily accessible when it comes to what they are required to use and the restrictions we put on them in terms of where they can locate. So I can’t support this.”

After a 6–6 vote on the measure, with one member absent, the chair announced that the emergency declaration resolution failed.

A few council members at times during the five-hour meeting opined that marijuana more broadly should be legal in the District, but that policy change has been repeatedly blocked by a congressional rider preventing D.C. leaders from regulating an adult-use cannabis market.

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