Is D.C.’s Cannabis “Gifting Economy” In Trouble?

Last week, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson called a vote on emergency legislation that aimed, in part, to give the Council the authority to shut down any business that gifts marijuana. Although the proposed bill did not pass (by only one vote), Mendelson’s bill reveals ongoing tension regarding D.C.’s legally questionable cannabis “gifting economy” and the uncertain future of these “I-71 Shops.”

If you follow this blog you may recall that a 2015 Congressional Rider that prevents the District from using its local tax dollars to implement commercial cannabis sales, despite the approval of a 2014 measure that legalized marijuana possession, cultivation and gifting (Initiative 71), led to the creation of  a “gifting economy.”

Creative entrepreneurs have used a provision in Initiative 71 that states it is lawful for anyone 21-years of age or older to “transfer without payment (but not sell) up to one ounce of marijuana to another person 21-years of age or older….”. These businesses sell items unrelated to marijuana at marked-up prices and offering marijuana as a complementary gift with the transaction.

According to the language of Mendelson’s emergency legislation, dozens of illegal cannabis businesses are operating in the District, many of which sell untraced, untested

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