Apr 11, 2024 - News

D.C. lawmakers decline stricter rules on dispensaries near schools

A man observes medical marijuana at a dispensary

A dispensary in Takoma. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A push to crackdown on marijuana dispensaries near D.C. schools has sputtered, as one controversial shop moves forward.

Why it matters: Two neighborhood outcries have erupted over medical cannabis shops seeking to open within 300 feet of schools, which is legal under city rules.

Catch up quick: Existing law also allows for what critics call a loophole within the 300-foot parameter. Marijuana retailers can, in fact, open closer to schools if a campus is within a commercial zone.

  • Last week's failed bill would have removed that exemption, prohibiting all shops within 300 feet of a preschool, primary, or secondary school, or recreation center.
  • It didn't pass on a 6-6 vote.

Between the lines: Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council chair Phil Mendelson have publicly expressed concerns about how the change might affect the expansion of the city's marijuana industry.

Zoom in: In the Palisades, the dispensary Green Theory gained approval last month from the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA), despite protests that it would be near five private schools on MacArthur Boulevard.

  • Some neighbors and parents formed a group named 1,000 Feet pushing the city to extend the ban on dispensaries to beyond 1,000 feet of schools.

Another shop proposed in Penn Quarter within 300 feet of BASIS D.C. charter school is still awaiting a ruling from ABCA in the coming weeks, amid a protest.

  • "Is it appropriate for dispensaries to locate less than 300 feet away from a school just because it's in a densely populated area? We would say no," Michael Shankle, the chair of the area's advisory neighborhood commission, said last week at an ABCA hearing.

What we're watching: City lawmakers won't say whether they will revisit the topic. The co-authors of the failed bill — Council members Brooke Pinto and Charles Allen — did not respond to requests for comment.

  • 1,000 Feet organizer Jackie Puente tells Axios the group will continue its advocacy with council members and regulators.
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