New Washington DC legislation targets unlicensed cannabis shops

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Lawmakers in Washington DC passed legislation targeting unlicensed cannabis “gifting” stores, potentially empowering a new crackdown on the illicit retailers.

Although the District of Columbia has a legal medical marijuana program, the unlicensed stores aren’t part of it.

The stores, which sell non-marijuana items and include a “gift” of cannabis, have been a persistent challenge for DC authorities.

The new emergency legislation allows the District’s Alcohol Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA) “to issue warnings, fines, and cease-and-desist orders to unlicensed businesses that have not applied to the medical cannabis program,” according to local news website DCist.

It also allows the ABCA and DC police to examine a retailer’s books “and seize cannabis manufactured or sold in violation of the program.”

Additionally, the ABCA can fine commercial landlords who ignore warnings about their properties being used for illegal cannabis businesses.

The legislation was passed unanimously by the DC Council on Tuesday and now must be signed into law by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.

“This gap in the law, if not fixed, will render the onramp (to legal medical marijuana sales) meaningless, allow unlicensed establishments that do not apply to keep on operating, and significantly harm the good actors that have applied,” DC Councilmember Charles Allen said during Tuesday’s meeting, the DCist reported.

Thirty-seven unlicensed DC marijuana businesses have applied to go legal since November, according to the news outlet.

Sales at legal MMJ dispensaries have been on the decline in Washington DC, official figures show.

November sales were worth roughly $2.9 million, a decrease of 9% from the same month a year before.