Police Raids Persist Amid D.C.’s Gray Market

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Police raids in the nation’s capital continue to be a problem for cannabis-focused business owners and event planners as the gray market persists throughout the city.  D.C. Metropolitan Police Department policy states that it is legal for those at or above the age of 21 in D.C. to possess two ounces or less of cannabis, gift one ounce or less to another person, cultivate up to six plants (no more than three mature plants), and use cannabis on their private property. Public consumption and recreational sales are prohibited.

D.C.’s gray market involves business owners gifting cannabis or related products to consumers, who pay through “donations” or by paying for food, clothes, art, or other non-cannabis products.

Gregory Wimsatt, co-founder of a business known as Mr. Nice Guys D.C., told The Outlaw Report that they are currently in the process of relocating after two raids that occurred at their location, once in December 2019 and once in January 2020. The Mr. Nice Guys D.C. website indicates a selection of the products sold, which included shatter, cartridges, edibles, as well as T-shirts that retailed for $350. The business attained its lease for two floors above a used books store off 33rd Street NW in Georgetown in November 2019. 

D.C. new channel FOX 5 shared a video of the second raid, which showed officers in SWAT gear and guns drawn, busting through the front door.

Following the incident, Hamid Savojbolaghi, the owner of the property that Mr. Nice Guys D.C. resided in, later told The Washington Post, “I don’t want anything to do with that type of business.”

Wimsatt defends his business, saying that many of the complaints that were made to the media were “made up.” He disputed an email that was sent to residents by Police Cmdr. Duncan Bedlion, who heads the 2nd District station, that described citizen complaints that included a report of hearing gunshots. He also argued against traffic complaints of cars driving through 33rd Street NW the wrong way.

“That was happening with or without us,” according to Wimsatt. “It happened yesterday, and our business is shut down.”

Joe Gibbons, an ANC Commissioner in the Georgetown neighborhood, told The Outlaw Report that he contacted the D.C. Police Department, the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and the Office of the Attorney General with concerns of illegal activity at Mr. Nice Guys D.C. 

“There was a lot [of people], and they were congregating,” Gibbons said. “They weren’t really going in the store, and shopping, and coming out with their bags and then leaving … This is where people raise their families, want to come home after a long day of work, and they don’t want to see this huge crowd or the crowds in front.”

Gibbons stated that he doesn’t blame the store owners for the actions of their clientele, but added, “I’m just saying that with that and the smell of marijuana, it was not what I wanted to see.”

Wimsatt described the neighborhood, which has a history of housing many powerful politicos, as “picking and choosing who they want to mess with.” He said, “We’ve got to get out of Georgetown … They’re just using the tax payer’s money and trying to financially exhaust us.” 

There is no comprehensive, publicly available list of data to determine if there has been a rise or decrease in raids in the nation’s capital. Only news reports have filtered through over the years to offer some context. 

In June 2018, 30 people were arrested at a pop-up at a Northeast D.C. neighborhood with more than $10,000 seized. In November 2017, police raided a Southwest D.C. apartment where they found 53 pounds of cannabis and seized $75,000. At the time, the D.C. Police Department tweeted, “It’s one of the most sophisticated operations I’ve seen.” A year earlier, a Glover Park art gallery and museum, known as Joint Ventures, or JVDC, dealt with a raid that ended with four arrests as well as close to $60,000 and 3.25 pounds of cannabis confiscated.

It is not uncommon for the D.C. Police Department Twitter account to brag about raids on pop-up events and brick-and-mortar businesses. In December 2018, the account tweeted the hashtags, #HeretoHelp and #Itsawinforthecommunity, after posting photos of a haul of confiscated cannabis and related paraphernalia.

NBC4 reported in February 2019 that the majority of raid charges are dismissed. Out of 255 arrests identified across more than two dozen police raids dating back to August 2017, more than 80 percent of cases were dropped. 

In an interview with NBC4 at the time, Josh Sanderlin, a D.C. attorney and pro-legalization advocate said, “I’ve never heard of anybody actually being prosecuted all the way through, so I would imagine that people in the industry are hip to that as well.”

Uneeda Nichols, a D.C. resident and DCMJ member and activist, told The Outlaw Report that a raid occurred at her home in August 2017 after she hosted a pop-up event. She along with eight co-defendants were arrested and later dismissed. Due to her cultivating more plants than legally allowed, she was kept in a holding facility for three days, which she described as “worse than a jail.” She was later evicted from her home due to the incident. She has not hosted any pop-up events since then.

When asked what advice she would give to other D.C. residents, she said, “Don’t sell weed. It’s not legal,” adding, “give away the cannabis. Sell your own art or whatever. Whatever your craft is, do that, but I don’t encourage people to sell cannabis.”

Retired detective and member of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) Howard Wooldridge described the war on drugs as “the most destructive, dysfunctional, and immoral policy since slavery and Jim Crow.”

Wooldridge described capitalism and entrepreneurship as “alive and well” in D.C., saying that store owners who provide weed are “providing a service to the public.” He told The Outlaw Report, “As a cop for 18 years, if you’re doing five over the speed limit, we don’t act on that. To me, this is the equivalent of doing five over the speed limit. No big deal.”

Even so, Wooldridge offered the following advice to stores or events that operate in D.C.’s gray market.

“Keep your head down. Keep your mouth shut, and just do what you need to do to put bread on the table,” Wooldridge said. “This is not rocket science.”

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department declined to comment to The Outlaw Report

The Outlaw Report is in the midst of a FOIA process to attain data on search warrants that were issued in connection to illegal cannabis activity in the District.

Photo via ChiccoDodiFC/Shutterstock

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