Chairman Phil Mendleson has requested once again that emergency legislation be placed on the Agenda for the April 5, 2022 Legislative Meeting. This legislation would upend the DC law passed by 70% of voters in 2014 that allows for recreational cannabis use. This emergency legislation would completely shutter i71 compliant businesses and impose unprecedented crippling fines and penalties on the operators, landlords, employees, and neighborhoods of i71-compliant businesses. The legislation creates a scheme of exclusivity for access to cannabis, and empowers and protects a select elite few business owners while at the same time imperiling the livelihoods of all the i-71 businesses and our employees.

The i71 Committee urges all Council Members to vote against this emergency act as it would peel back the very little protections that i71 offers to compliant, small businesses and would result in financial struggle for the many employees of these businesses, a huge percentage of whom are Black or people of color. It would also debilitate the efforts these small businesses and individuals make on behalf of the DC community in the form of mutual aid initiatives, food and coat drives, sponsorships of local events, and general support of the neighborhoods they reside in, neighborhoods who are not currently complaining or saying this is an “emergency”. We are in full support of efforts to uplift patients and individuals who use and are in need of medical cannabis and the medical marajuana industry in DC. Unfortunately, this legislation does so much more harm than good. Sadly, in many ways, it sets DC back to an older style of enforcement practices used to send “so called” unwanted businesses and individuals packing, away from our city. Hundreds if not thousands of DC residents will lose their jobs should this act be approved.

i71 compliant small businesses are operating in compliance with Initiative 71, waiting for legislation that allows the sale and taxation of recreational cannabis. Businesses that are i71 compliant support legislation that will help regulate the growing cannabis economy and allow DC to collect tax revenue. We are working to support Statehood for DC and to repeal the Harris Rider Amendment that stripped DC of its right to establish a legal, fair and equitable cannabis economy.

Sadly this surprise attack and legislation sends the wrong message to Congress and the voters of DC. This type of legislation will not erase the recreational market that already exists, but will leave a vacuum that only the black market will fill. If this emergency act goes through, not only will it harm the city from an economical standpoint, but it will no doubt increase crime from a black market that will surely come from this fast and foolish law with no plan on what to do after it’s passed.

This kind of legislation doesn’t serve the long-term status of law-abiding businesses and our ability to competitively operate in the cannabis market. Levying harsh fines against these small businesses endangers the legitimate livelihoods of many DC residents and creates more space in the cannabis economy in DC for larger, more corporate operations, not based in DC, to take over the market. These larger businesses have no vested interest in continuing the legacy of diverse and equitable hiring, ownership, or access to cannabis that the people who live and work here do. Imposing crippling financial penalties comes with harsh collateral consequences, resulting in financial ruin for DC employees. Effectively, it would slash employment, leaving hundreds or even thousands of DC residents struggling financially.

Chairman Mendelson has it all wrong. We are good business owners, employ DC residents, pay taxes and good wages. To make us out to be criminals, and police us out of business is wrong. To do this on the very same day that the House of Representatives voted to pass the MORE Act is even worse.

Chairman Mendelson has consistently said once the Harris Rider is removed he wants to allow for recreational cannabis sales in the city, with a strong commitment to social equity. We took him at his word. However, this type of action contradicts his previous statements. Our businesses are majority Black or Hispanic – we did a demographic survey that shows they make up over 60% of our employees. This legislation would leave them without jobs and without financial security.

Please vote NO on this emergency act.

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