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Prominent I-71 stores absent from D.C.’s legal cannabis transition

The Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA) released the much-anticipated list of businesses seeking to transition from D.C.’s I-71 gifting market (often referred to as the “gray market”) to legal medical dispensaries. While hundreds of gifting stores operate in the city, only 76 applications were submitted.

A total of 26 D.C. unlicensed retailers have been awarded placards which is the first step in transitioning to a legal medical dispensary. After receiving a placard, businesses must go through a protest period where ANC’s can submit a protest to their license. Twelve of the businesses awarded licenses are social equity applicants and 14 are standard applicants. They could potentially open as early as late April.

However, 65% of the applicants have not been approved despite another ABC board meeting this week and the licensing period closing at the end of January. Only three licensees were heard this week and all of them were sent back to the licensing office for application inconsistencies. Three applicants in total have been rejected by ABCA. The lack of denials signifies their office working with businesses to fix or adjust their applications to allow them to be placarded. 

The most notable part of the list is who is missing. Some estimate over hundreds of gifting stores dot D.C.’s streets. Less than 80 applications is a far cry short of those numbers. Many stores that joined an industry group called The I-71 Committee were not on the list, including well known shops such as Gifted Curators, Legacy, Monko and Peace in the Air who self-certified themselves as I-71 gifting shops and participated for years in industry advocacy and community events. 

Monko applied for a conditional manufacture and cultivator license jointly with two other businesses but has not been awarded an official license yet. Conditional licenses allow businesses a year to meet all requirements to be placarded.

Other businesses such as Smoke & Tingz which sits right next to Cloud 9 will be denied shortly unless they transfer to another location. Medical dispensaries are not allowed to be within 400 feet of each other. The licensing process prioritized whomever submitted their application first. In this case, Cloud 9 submitted its application almost three months before Smoke & Tingz. 

Any other dispensaries functioning under D.C.’s weed gifting amendment not on this list now face enforcement starting with written notice of violations. Enforcement will begin with a written warning from ABCA then escalate to fines then cease and desist orders and then referral to other law enforcement agencies, according to Fred Moosally, the Director of ABCA during February’s license info session.

Nine of the applicants have no location listed which will likely lead to their denial. However ABCA is still trying to adhere to the legal requirement that D.C.’s market is 50/50 social equity, non social equity. This may delay standard applicants from approval if not enough social equity applicants can qualify for licenses. 24 standard applicants with addresses remain unheard while only 13 social equity applicants with addresses remain unheard. 

The next board meeting will be held next week, Feb. 21 at 10:30 AM. The next licensing period opens Mar 1, 2024 for social equity retail and online retail applicants.

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