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D.C. expands medical marijuana access by accepting more out-of-state cards

Cards from over two dozen states are now recognized at local dispensaries

While marijuana isn’t fully legalized in the District—recreational sales remain illicit due in large part to congressional interference, and public use is barred under a 2015 law—a new initiative by Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration is allowing more people to benefit from D.C.’s medical cannabis dispensaries. Under expedited rules that Bowser announced earlier this month, the District now recognizes medical marijuana cards from 27 states where it is legal, up from 19 states before. D.C. officials were also reviewing four other states’ eligibility.

In the legal weed world, this setup among states is called “reciprocity.” People with medical marijuana cards from the following states may now get cannabis from District dispensaries, per Bowser’s office: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Vermont. The four states being considered for inclusion as of August 8 were Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. Bowser said the change was focused on patients.

“It ensures medical marijuana patients from other states can obtain their needed medicine,” Bowser said in a statement. “It will also promote public safety by allowing visitors to obtain their medicine at one of the District’s six—soon to be seven—authorized dispensaries rather than forcing them to go without or patronizing the illegal market.” D.C. has allowed medical marijuana sales since 2013, but federally it’s still illegal to transport cannabis between states.

The expansion comes as Bowser and other District leaders are pushing for the legalization of recreational marijuana sales. Although recreational marijuana use was largely decriminalized through a 2014 D.C. ballot initiative, federal legislators have historically blocked its complete legalization in the District by putting anti-marijuana budget language in appropriations bills.

But with Democrats in control of the House since January, local officials and activists hope marijuana legalization is closer to reality. In May, Bowser introduced legislation that would allow recreational cannabis sales and taxation in the city, an outcome that experts say could generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue a year. The bill has yet to receive any hearings.

Prior to the new rules, D.C. already accepted cards from these states: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington. As of July, the city had more than 6,700 registered medical cannabis patients.

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