Read Rabbi Jeff Kahn’s testimony to the DC Council on 11/19/2021 in favor of Bill 34-113 the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2021 and Bill 24-118, the Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Act of 2021

My name is Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn. I am a resident of Brightwood Park and my wife, son, and I own and operate Takoma Wellness Center, the District’s first and longest operating medical cannabis dispensary. Before discussing cannabis, let me put on my rabbi’s hat to say 

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה, יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ, מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה.

This is a moment to celebrate for we have been kept alive, we have been sustained, and we’ve been brought to this moment when we begin to legalize the use of cannabis for all adults in Washington, D.C. Thank you Chairman Mendelson, Council Members McDuffie and Allen, and all the members of the Council of the District of Columbia for making today possible.

I don’t think anyone testifying today will oppose marijuana legalization. I-71 passed with 65% of the vote in 2014. I’m sure even more Washingtonians support full legalization now. But today you will hear many different ideas of who, how, what, where, and when it should be done. The proposed legislation aims to maintain and strengthen our medical cannabis program. That intention is stated several times in the proposed legislation. I don’t think anyone testifying today will oppose maintaining a strong medical cannabis program. We all want medical use and adult use and we all want it done correctly.

We will not be the first jurisdiction with a medical cannabis program to legalize all adult use. Washington State, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Michigan, Alaska, New Mexico, and Illinois all had medical programs in place when their adult use programs began. All wanted to keep a medical program in place. Some have been far more successful than others.

The states that have succeeded have:

  1. Built their new adult use program on the foundation of their medical cannabis program. Takoma Wellness Center has a ten-year unblemished record of successfully operating in a heavily regulated and taxed DC cannabis program. Current and proposed rules and legislation call for additional medical dispensaries and cultivation centers. An Adult Use program will, no doubt, require even more. But the current licensed dispensaries and cultivators must be grand-mothered into any Adult Use program and must be able to sell cannabis to any adult as soon as the Act is effective. That is our first step to success.
  2. Established a large enough tax difference between medical and adult use cannabis to encourage medical patients to see a medical care provider and register with the state. It costs at least $200 to enter DC’s medical marijuana program. People will not spend that much and pay the same or a similar sales tax as adult use. The proposed legislation calls for a 13% sales tax for adult use and 6% for medical. The tax is too high to encourage medical registration or encourage regulated adult use sales. It would be best for adult use cannabis to be taxed at the regular 6%. Like any other medicine, medical cannabis should not be taxed at all. A low “recreational” tax and no medical tax is our second step.
  3. Allowed dispensaries that serve medical and adult use clients to mark all differences at the point of sale. It is at that point that all differences in tax, limits, products, and prices can be made. States that have adopted programs that require different entrances, inventories, counterspace, etc. have all found them excessively burdensome and unnecessary. We hope to see changes made to the proposed legislation to remove these stumbling blocks so we can succeed.
  4. Encouraged greater diversity and local participation by carefully expanding their program. We need to be sure that rules and regs are promulgated so that supply and demand are maintained. New players must be added to the program to serve more clients. ABRA is about to open applications for new cultivators and a dispensary. The legislation under consideration today doubles the number of dispensaries. DC currently has one the most diverse cannabis industries in the nation. Most of our dispensaries are Black and/or woman owned. We are encouraged that this legislation will keep us as local and as diverse as possible. That’s step four to our success.

Today, you are hearing many ideas about how DC can create a safe, legal, taxed, and regulated adult use cannabis market. Please remember that while doing so, we must maintain and strengthen our medical cannabis program, upon whose foundation the adult use program will be built. All current, licensed medical cannabis dispensaries must be able to sell to the general adult population as soon as regulations are finalized. We must stop taxing medical cannabis altogether and create a low adult use sales tax. We must continue to encourage diverse and local ownership. ABRA has already proven itself to be an outstanding regulatory authority, and we greatly appreciate Director Moosally’s leadership. Together, we can make all this happen and ensure the success of our efforts.