Apr 6, 2022 - News

Crackdown on D.C.'s marijuana gifting shops falls short

Marijuana buds coming out of a black plastic package
Marijuana from Try High Speed, which sells cold-pressed juice and "gifts" marijuana. Photo: Michael Robinson Chávez/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Marijuana gifting shops operating in the legal gray zone caught a break Wednesday after a proposed crackdown narrowly fell short in the D.C. Council.

Why it matters: Marijuana gift shops — whose business models rely on selling patrons items such as art or juice, and “gifting” them marijuana — have turned into an over $600 million annual industry in the District, according to council chair Phil Mendelson.

  • Critics of the shops say they have eaten into the profits of the city’s licensed medical marijuana marketplace.
  • Since Congress bars the District from legalizing the sale of recreational cannabis, Mendelson has denounced the gifting shops as conducting illegal, unregulated, marijuana sales. His legislation would have increased civil enforcement against gifting businesses.
  • Owners of the shops and other groups successfully rallied against the proposed crackdown, which Mendelson also floated last fall to similar backlash. Advocates said many shops are owned by Black entrepreneurs and that snuffing out the stores will drive more sales into an underground market.

Between the lines: The bill would also have allowed anyone 21 and over to obtain medical marijuana without a doctor’s note, meant to expand legal marijuana sales and boost the medical dispensaries.

What they’re saying: “We think that there is enough time to work with the council to come up with some type of reasonable plan that does not echo” the strict criminalization of marijuana sales of the past, said David Ross, a spokesperson for a gifting shop, Street Lawyer Services, which offers legal consultations and marijuana gifts.

What’s next: The debate will continue. A permanent version of the legislation could come up for a vote later in the year if it passes the committee.

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