Unlicensed D.C. cannabis gifting shop raided despite starting transition to the legal market


This article was updated Mar. 8 to correct the spelling of Kaliiva and include comment from DLCP. 

The unthinkable happened for the D.C. unlicensed shops that chose to transition to the legal market on Wednesday. A placarded business, Kaliiva in Adams Morgan, was raided by D.C. police. Six employees were arrested, and the shop was shut down.

Unthinkable because the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration previously said that shops that were acting in good faith to transition to a legal market would not face enforcement while in the process of getting licensed. Of course, ABCA could only speak for itself.

The Department of Health, DC Licensing and Consumer Protection and MPD can act independently of ABCA and conduct inspections.

DLCP performed a regular business license check and flavored tobacco inspection of Kaliiva on Wednesday accompanied by MPD. This inspection was independent of the medical cannabis licensing process with ABCA. According to MPD’s incident report, police executed a raid after a DLCP investigator “observed narcotics that the location did not have license to sell.” According to MPD’s incident report, police executed a raid after a DLCP investigator “observed narcotics that the location did not have license to sell.”

The incident report listed almost 400 psilocybin chocolate bars including “Polka Dot” and “Mantra bars among numerous other mushroom products confiscated. A significant amount of THC edibles and vapes and “leafy green substance,” which must be tested to verify it is cannabis, were also taken as evidence.

A DLCP spokesperson wrote in an email on Friday that “To date, DLCP has received no complaints about mushroom-related products. The sale, use, and production of mushroom-related products are considered narcotic offenses and fall under the jurisdiction of MPD.”

Kaliiva was one of the first businesses to receive a placard (the first step of D.C. licensing) as a gifting shop that chose to transition out of the gray market into the legal medical cannabis market. ABCA previously said that enforcement would start with a warning letter and fines before referring violations to law enforcement or other agencies.

DLCP initiated the inspection of Kaliiva on Wednesday. ABCA was not present. “ABCA has not initiated inspections of any business that submitted a timely medical cannabis license application during the open application period for unlicensed operators that is currently pending with our agency,” the agency wrote in an email to The Outlaw Report on Thursday.

However, ABCA did participate in four inspections with three separate resulting seizures of cannabis product, according to Fred Moosally, the Director of ABCA, in a D.C. council testimony on Wednesday. The testimony occurred around the same time as the raid on Kaliiva.  

ABCA participated in the shutting down of Greenfield Garden in Columbia Heights. The gifting shop was inspected and consequently raided on Feb. 28, 2024 after receiving a denial for a medical cannabis application from ABCA. The denial of their license enabled the raid, according to Moosally.

Mushrooms were also found at Greenfield Garden, according to the police incident report. It is still illegal to sell psychedelic mushrooms in the District. I-81 only declared entheogenic plants and fungi the lowest priority of enforcement; very different from the I-71 amendment that legalized cannabis gifting in small quantities and opened the D.C. cannabis gray market.

MPD officers pack evidence while raiding Kaliva in Adams Morgan on Mar. 6, 2024. Photo LJ Dawson

There is no medical market for psilocybin, MDMA or other psychedelics despite their rising mainstream popularity.

The cannabis confiscated from Greenfield Garden allegedly tested positive for amphetamines, according to council testimony from Moosally. But it is unclear the veracity of that test. MPD did not share the results because they “do not confirm drug testing in an ongoing investigation,” according to MPD’s public information officer.

The raid and closure of Greenfield Garden last week does not explain why Kaliva, a placarded shop, was raided Wednesday. But selling psilocybin or cannabis is still illegal for even a transitioning gifting shop. However, there are multiple gifting shops in Adams Morgan that did not apply for medical licenses that were not raided in the last two weeks that are still participating in “gifting” cannabis.  

It is unclear if DLCP or DOH has jurisdiction over unlicensed operators. These five separate raids on gifting shops, one placarded, signify the first wave of enforcement by D.C. agencies since a safe harbor law for gifting shops expired in January.

New York tried similar tactics against unlicensed dispensaries to dampen its cannabis gray market, but many of the stores that faced legal enforcement are still operating despite injunctions and charges.

ABCA asked for additional authority from D.C. council on Wednesday to fine, inspect and close over 200 known gifting shops that did not apply for medical cannabis licenses.

In the past, gifting shop raids rarely led to charges for the employees who were arrested. But the majority of the each arrested Kaliiva employee faces three separate felony charges of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance including marijuana.

An ABCA spokesperson wrote in an email that “ABCA continues to work with unlicensed operators to complete their applications and navigate the public comment period process.” Kaliiva’s owner did not respond to a request for comment. 


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