New Cannabis 'Gifting' Shops in the Neighborhood Spark Regulatory Discussions

New Cannabis 'Gifting' Shops in the Neighborhood Spark Regulatory Discussions

At least one cannabis gifting shop is opening in the neighbourhood. 

Canna Art, which placed its sign above the door at 5008 Connecticut Avenue last November, had an artist adorn the walls inside.

And on March 12th, a sign posted at the former Wells Fargo at 4302 Connecticut indicated a gifting shop called Mr. Green was “Coming Soon.”

Less than a week later, the Mr. Green sign was removed. Neither Van Ness Main Street nor ANC 3F had any knowledge of Mr. Green. Roadside Development, the owner of the building, has not responded to our request for information.

Canna Art owner Yared Betsate confirmed in an email to Forest Hills Connection that his business will be a gifting shop. “I will keep you posted on opening date,” he wrote.

How does cannabis “gifting” work? Although DC voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2014, Congressional budget riders prevent local businesses other than medical cannabis dispensaries from selling it. What these shops do sell – at a big markup – is merchandise such as stickers and t-shirts, or services such as advice and motivational speeches. The cannabis is added to the transaction as a “gift.”

The DC Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser stepped into this regulatory gray area with a law that took effect in March 2023, eliminated a cap on medical cannabis dispensaries, and gave gifting shops the opportunity to apply for a dispensary license from the DC Alcohol, Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA). A 90-day application period for more than 200 existing shops ended on January 29th of this year.

ABCA is also accepting applications from now through April 30th for owners who qualify under “social equity” requirements set by the 2023 law. An additional 60-day application window opens in July for all other retailers.

Giving the law more teeth, the DC Council in January passed an emergency bill introduced by Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen. Gifting shops that do not apply face fines and cease-and-desist orders. Fines can also be levied against a shop’s landlord. A permanent version is working its way through the Council.

Canna Art’s Betsate told Forest Hills Connection that the business is in the process of applying for an ABCA license.

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Region: Washington D.C.

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