I like how the Washingtonian put this statement. “DC’s cannabis “gifting” services are a symptom of the city’s second-class status in the US–its residents voted in 2014 to legalize marijuana, but Congress’s continuing ban on legal recreational sales in the district essentially created a gray market where recreational users must purchase items and receive a “gift” of a cannabis product. On Tuesday the DC Council is poised to consider emergency legislation (a not uncommon legislative tactic in the district that circumvents Congressional review) that would bolster the fortunes of medical marijuana businesses and crack down on gifting services.
Let’s look at the statement a “not uncommon legislative tactic”. It seems like every 4 to 6 months this bill, or ones very similar, are sought to be introduced. Websites like The Outlaw and The Dcist have reported on how I-71 businesses have been targets of raids and local residents/neighbors to be shut down for their increased traffic and “crime activity”. We have some unpacking to do.
First, what are I-71 businesses? According to the mayor.dc website Initiative 71 is a legal provision that allows one to possess two ounces or less of marijuana and use marijuana on private property. This provision also allows one to transfer one ounce or less of marijuana to another person, as long as no money, goods or services are exchanged; and the recipient is 21 years of age or older. Businesses that operate in this legal “grey area” have been termed I-71 businesses. They are not medical marijuana dispensaries.
The Washingtonian reports “The bill, proposed by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, aims to alleviate complaints by medical dispensaries that “I-71” businesses—their name derives from Initiative 71, the 2014 ballot measure that legalized cannabis—don’t face the same regulatory regimen they do, and as a result enjoy an unfair advantage. DC could close unregistered marijuana businesses for 96 hours and fine them and their landlords”. Here is the kicker, anyone who wants a medical marijuana card would be able to “self-certify” their need to purchase from a medical dispensary.
Let’s look at the medical dispensaries. According to DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (The ABRA), the agency that regulates the sale of cannabis in the district, there are seven medical dispensaries. There are currently seven licensed dispensaries in the district of Columbia. The Washingtonian published an article saying “Most Influential people in the DC Area Weed Business”. That article states the names associated with the medical marijuana industry. We’re looking at former university chairs, former government officials, international bankers, international finance, etc.
Back to unpacking- let’s look at Walmart and the Waltons. What happens when Wal-Mart comes to town? Mom and pop stores, small businesses got wiped out. If you do not remember, check out the NYdaily news article about “Wal-Mart super-stores kill off local small businesses”. Walmart lobbied for government officials to allow them into certain areas. We know that lobby means paying the government (whether local/state/or federal) to get what you want. Loyola University in Chicago found that within two years of Wal-Mart opening 82 local stores went out of business.
Why am I bringing up Wal-Mart? Medical marijuana is Wal-Mart in Washington, DC as far as cannabis is concerned. Could not the new legislation simply allow medical marijuana companies to gift as well? However, Medical marijuana has lobbied to literally eliminate the small business they see as taking away from their margins.
The Washingtonian reports “Anaïs Hayes is the COO and co-founder of District Derp, an I-71 business that has a team of ten people working either full or part-time. Moving all trade to the medical dispensaries would probably lead to price hikes, she says. Only seven medical dispensaries are currently licensed to operate in the district, and while the legislation aims to increase that number, the current market would be immediately disrupted”.
Recently a documentary premiered in Washington DC entitled “Young, Gifting, and Black: DC’s Loudest Secret. Fox News recently reported on this premiere and interviewed Mackenzie Mann who’s a project manager for the Generational Equity Movement. Mann states “As you’ll see in the documentary, which was a really big push to make, D.C. has, at every turn, pushed Black people out of the places that they already existed,” Manns said. “We saw it with gentrification. We saw it with the war on drugs. There’s never been a spot where D.C. has uplifted the Black community and given them an opportunity to actually create and build generational wealth, and they have that opportunity right now.”
The constant push to eliminate the “gifting” market is a way to passively gentrify the industry by erecting major barriers to entry. I am a customer of Select Co-op– a delivery dispensary in DC operating as an I-71 business. The difference is, they deliver and have no storefront.
In conclusion, the shutting down of business and fining the landlord threat by the new proposed legislation would not apply. However, I am totally against the legislation as it is simply a means for folks to set up a monopoly on cannabis in Washington DC. It is interesting how in Virginia and now Washington DC the language about “social equity” “opportunities for people affected by past laws” and other rhetoric is no longer even a discussion after the lobbyist used that language to pass recreational cannabis as legal.