Apr 2, 2024 - News

D.C. considers banning two dispensaries from opening near schools

Illustration of a marijuana plant growing through a "no" symbol.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Two proposed medical marijuana dispensaries that have recently faced pushback for being located near schools could be blocked under legislation considered by the D.C. Council on Tuesday.

Why it matters: D.C. is balancing the expansion of its legal marijuana marketplace with concerns about retailers' proximity to young children.

Driving the news: Council members will vote on a bill that would take effect immediately and prohibit medical cannabis retailers that want to open in Penn Quarter near the BASIS DC charter school and in the Palisades near several private schools.

  • Both shops have received pushback from parents and neighbors. Their license applications are pending before D.C. regulators.

State of play: The existing law allows for what critics call a loophole. Marijuana retailers can't open 300 feet near schools — unless the campus is within a commercial zone.

  • The change would remove that exemption, prohibiting shops within 300 feet of a preschool, primary or secondary school, or recreation center.

Council members Brooke Pinto and Charles Allen are co-introducing the legislation.

  • "We should ensure appropriate and reasonable geographic barriers between any school or recreation center and cannabis retailers are maintained," Pinto said in a statement.

Catch up quick: While Congress still blocks D.C. from legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana, the city is getting crafty.

  • In 2022, D.C. allowed residents 21 and over to "self-certify" for medical marijuana cards — no doctor's note needed.
  • On top of that, D.C. is now expanding its medical marijuana marketplace by allowing more retailers to open — as a counterweight to the gray market's "weed gifting shops."

What they're saying: Council chair Phil Mendelson told reporters he is "completely sympathetic to the schools," but stopped short of supporting the bill.

  • He said a blanket 300-foot rule "makes it difficult to locate the dispensaries … If we're going to have legal cannabis, then there's got to be places where people can buy legally."

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