D.C.’s marijuana market may be getting less hazy starting this September, when a new Joint Cannabis Task Force will start cracking down on health, tax and licensing violations.
Local voters approved Initiative 71 (I-71) in 2014, which allows legalized marijuana possession, personal use and cultivation, and the gifting of small amounts of pot.
Congress has not yet legalized cannabis federally and has blocked the District from implementing the full recreational sale of marijuana since 2015.
The gray area provided by the gifting provision in the law led to the rise of “I-71” stores, which sell other products and then provide marijuana as a customer gift.
D.C. announced that the new policy would have a 30-day grace period starting last Friday.
Businesses will be held to D.C. tax, business and fire safety laws. For edibles and other marijuana-food products, D.C. health and food safety regulations apply.
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“Joint agency inspections will take place unannounced after the 30-day grace period to verify the compliance of operating businesses with legal requirements,” according to the D.C. press release announcing the Joint Cannabis Task Force.
The most important regulation for these gray-area stores, however, is that only seven medical marijuana dispensaries are currently licensed to operate by the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA).
Some “I-71” shop proprietors remain unfazed by the new policy.
“It seems that ABRA isn’t concerned with the instrumentality of the gifting. It seems like they’re concerned with business licenses and certificates of occupancy. … Because of the nature of the [marijuana] business, there’s a higher chance people will open without the proper licenses,” Lonny Bramzon, attorney and owner of the Street Lawyer Services gifting shop on H Street NE, told DCist.
Sales of cannabis proper will be restricted to the seven licensed medical dispensaries, while gifting shops will still be able to sell edibles.
“Edibles and other manufactured products being offered by businesses to customers must be approved by DC Health; businesses also must be in compliance with DC food safety and hygiene laws,” the D.C. press release said.