Nine years ago, DC passed Initiative 71, making it legal for residents to possess two ounces of pot. Since then, a cadre of creative entrepreneurs has taken advantage of the law’s loophole by selling other products — like stickers, trinkets and even motivational speeches — while “gifting” customers small amounts of marijuana. The result: the District has one of the most vibrant gray-market cannabis markets in the country. And it’s mostly black- and Latino-owned, making it a key part of the city’s burgeoning economy.
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But the gifting system is fraught with legal pitfalls. In addition to the obvious legal concerns (gifting violates federal prohibitions on the sale of marijuana), it also hurts business at the city’s regulated and taxed medical dispensaries. Owners have complained that they’re losing customers to the gifting stores, which operate under a different regulatory framework. And critics say that allowing them to operate freely undermines the effectiveness of Initiative 71.
But dc weed gifters will have to overcome many obstacles to survive, including high delivery costs, a shortage of drivers and long wait times. The most successful gifters will be able to navigate those challenges and find new ways to connect with the community.