Here’s your May 2023 Northwest Georgetown ANC update:
The new field restoration is still proceeding. Remember to send any comments you have to DPR at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a further reminder, the work is scheduled to start this fall and will take the field out of commission for most of 2024. This will be challenging, but is a necessary step to ensure the long term health of the field.
Also, a spring storm took out one of the pear trees next to the swimming pool. While the city removed the tree, the fence is still (as of today) half knocked over. I have been working with the Friends of Volta Park to get this repaired by the city as soon as possible to ensure timely opening of the pool for the summer.
Speaking of the Friends of Volta Park, they are hosting their annual cocktail party and fundraiser on June 3rd. I hope to see you there!
As I mentioned in my last update, the ANC is exploring the possibility of asking the city to introduce resident-only parking to some or all of west Georgetown. This would be a big change that would not proceed without rigorous public discussion and debate.
But in the meantime, I wanted to report that the Georgetown Community Partnership, on which I sit, is attempting to tackle this problem as well. People coming to work or study at Georgetown University or the hospital are likely a significant contributor to the parking crunch in west Georgetown. The school is obligated under its campus plan to reduce this impact and the GCP is working collaboratively with the University to come up with ways to reduce illegal parking in the neighborhood. I hope to have more to report on this soon.
The annual Georgetown Garden Tour returns May 13th. This year Evermay is on the list of homes. It’s always a real pleasure to explore that estate!
Future Metrobus Changes Possible:
As part of a long term vision plan, WMATA floated a radical new bus network. This would impact bus service through Georgetown. Most notably it would eliminate the G2 route and merge the D2 and D6 routes. No changes are imminent, but be assured that I am keeping close tabs on these proposals and will encourage the ANC to comment on any plan that would degrade bus service for Georgetown. Please let me know your thoughts at email@example.com.
In response to many complaints from neighbors, my ANC colleagues and I have been working with Georgetown Visitation to limit the impact the school has on parking and congestion in the neighborhood. I would love to hear any relevant experienes you have had. For instance, have you frequently observed students parking on neighborhood streets or parents dropping off/picking up their daughters outside the gates (both of which they are prohibited from doing). Additionally, the school has re-hired an officer to manage the intersection of 35th St. and Volta (as they are required to under a zoning order). Please let me know how your experience in and around that intersection has changed (or not) since the return of the officer.
Longer term, the ANC is working to restore the school-only parking that once ran along the west side of 35th St. between P and Volta. This was removed a few years ago and has contributed to issues with sports bus loading and unloading. Of course, this would likely increase pressure on the parking issues in west Georgetown, which heightens the importance of addressing that issue more globally.
Trash Pick Up Shift and Food Waste Pilot:
Only one trash/recycling shift this month, namely the last week due to Memorial Day.
Speaking of trash pick up, if you’re interested in participating in the city’s new food waste collection pilot, sign up here! Divert some of those pizza crusts from the landfill to the compost bin!
In Person Meetings Coming Soon:
The ANC is planning on hosting its June ANC meeting in person! The date is May 30th and will take place at 6:30 pm, as usual. We have not settled on a location quite yet, but will spread the word once we do. The ANC is hoping to host about two meetings a year in person. Personally I have seen a lot of advantages in holding the meetings virtually in terms of widening the pool of people who can listen in and participate. But there is also something lost in not having it in person. We’re going to try both, for now, and see how it goes.
The May meeting, held Monday night at 6:30 pm, will be by Zoom. Here is a link to the agenda. Some items of interest for this month include an update from the Mayor’s office on the 2024 budget proposal and updates concerning possible changes to bus service through Georgetown (discussed above) and the ongoing transportation and access study.
Free Bulk Trash Removal
As part of the spring student move out, Georgetown University provides bulk trash removal. While the main objective of this effort is to clean up after the students, the school has graciously offered to extend this service to full-time residents as well. Sign up for a pick up here and then stop by the GU Office of Neighborhood Life at 1300 36th St. to receive blue trash bags for bulk trash and pink tags for donations. Follow these directions below:
Big Changes to Marijuana Shops Coming
Skip to the bottom if you want the TLDR version.
The Wild West-era of marijuana shops operating in a legal gray area is (hopefully) coming to an end soon. Under a law adopted by the DC Council, a new regime is set to come online next year that will dramatically change how DC residents get legal(ish)1 pot.
A short bit of history is helpful to explain where we are now and how and why we’re moving to a new regime. In 2009 2
, DC made the use of cannabis (i.e. marijuana3) for medicinal purposes legal. Reflecting a cautious approach to the enterprise, the city authorized a very small number of retail shops (known as dispensaries) to actually distribute the medical cannabis.4 Moreover, the city required an actual doctor’s prescription to obtain the cannabis and limited its use to short list of qualifying health conditions.
Then in 2014 the District voters approved another referendum on cannabis, Initiative 71 (known colloquially as I-71). This one legalized the use of pot for purely recreational purposes. However, for technical reasons pursuant to the Home Rule Act, the referendum did not legalize the purchase or sale of recreational cannabis, only the growth, possession, and use. And before the Council could take the next logical step and make such transactions legal, Congress stepped in to prohibit the city from doing so.
Into that uncertainty stepped a wave of new shops known as “gifting” or “I-71” shops. The way these shops operate is to offer fully legal items for sale, often artwork, or t-shirts, or funky cereal. And along with that legal purchase (often at an unusually high price, given the products) they thrown in a bag of weed “for free”. Thus the idea is that they’re not really selling you marijuana; they’re selling you something totally legal. The bag of weed is just a gift.
It is these types of shops that have popped up overnight like a field of mushrooms after a spell of rain.5 For the most part, DC has looked the other way vis-a-vis these shops. Occasionally MPD conducts a raid, largely due to reports of other non-marijuana drugs being sold, but for all intents and purposes DC decided to tolerate these shops. At least it did until the city adopted the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022.6
With the new law, the city is acknowledging that for the foreseeable future, Congress is not going to allow DC to legalize the sale of pot for recreational purposes.7 But the sale of cannabis for medicinal purposes is still legal under DC law. Putting 2 and 2 together, the city simply decided to make it incredibly easy to qualify to purchase medicinal marijuana. You now don’t even need a doctor’s note. If you’re over 21, you can simply self-certify that you need medicinal marijuana. You don’t even need to have a qualifying condition, other than the human one. You just have to certify that you need it according to your own judgment. 8
The law also lifts the cap on the number of dispensaries, now called retailers, across the city.9 Now there is no limit on the number of retailers, but there are location restrictions. A retailer cannot be located within 300 feet of a school or recreation center, nor may it be within 400 feet of another cannabis retailer. 10
The city will start accepting applications to obtain a cannabis retailer license starting this November. One reason you may have noticed a particular spike in the amount of the gifting or I-71 shops is that they are hoping to be first in line to get one of these licenses. Given the rules about location, it will be quite the race. 11 But more importantly, the city is promising to crack down on the gifting or I-71 shops that don’t get a license. Theoretically they are all supposed to close, but it remains to be seen if the city follows through on that.
I’ve done some preliminary geographic analysis and determined that a lot of Wisconsin Ave. will be off limits to the new retailers given the proximity of schools and recreation centers.12 Of the remaining stretches, only a small number of retailers would be able to open, given that none can open within 400 feet of another. (The story is a little different on M St., where much of the commercial space is eligible to host a cannabis retailer).
Additionally, the city has imported the process for settlement agreements from the liquor license arena into the cannabis one. 13 So the ANC will be able to negotiate many of the conditions under which the few retailers that open here will have to live by.
Thus, if things go as planned, in 12-18 months all of the pot shops that operate under that legal gray area will either be closed or operating under much more rigorous and sunlit rules. And most will fall under the former rather than later category.
I can promise you that my fellow commissioners and I are racing to get up to speed quickly about this new legal regime. We will endeavor to make sure the location rules are enforced and the retailers that do open will be run as cleanly and safely as possible.
The TLDR version:
- Lots of shops are selling marijuana under a legally gray area
- The city is planning to put these shops out of business and replace them with a smaller number of medical marijuana shops
- For all intents and purposes, these new medical marijuana shops will sell you cannabis that you can use recreationally
- The ANC is staying on top of this and will endeavor to have the shops that open in Georgetown be operated in a clean and safe manner
Use of marijuana for recreational purposes is legal under DC law, but technically remains illegal under federal law.
Actually the city voted to make medical marijuana legal in a citizen referendum held in 1998, but Congress made it illegal for the city to actually count the votes. Not until 2009 did Congress finally allow the city to count and recognize the 1998 referendum.
I’m using the terms marijuana, cannabis, and pot interchangeably here. The city is specifically trying to move away from the term marijuana in favor of cannabis, but whether you call it cannabis, marijuana, pot, Mary Jane, weed, ganja, the stanky dank, whatever, it’s regulated the same.
Right now there are only seven dispensaries across the whole city.
In case you’re wondering, “shrooms” and other hallucinogenics are also now legal for recreational use in DC, after a 2020 initiative, but are not part of this new legal regime.
Last year, obviously.
Even with House in Democratic hands since 2019, and the White House and Senate since 2021, the restrictions on DC legalizing the sale of recreational pot remained. The chance of that changing any time soon evaporated when the Democrats lost the House last year.
Anyone under the age of 21 still needs a prescription though.
The law also created new categories of cannabis businesses, including couriers and internet retailers.
As the crow flies. Basically, you measure the distance by drawing the shortest straight line between the closest two points of the respective lots (not the buildings themselves).
It is literally first come, first served. So don’t be surprised to see people camping out overnight outside the regulator like they’re trying to get tickets to Motley Crüe circa 1989.
Not all schools or recreation centers count for this determination. If the entrance to the school or rec center is on a lot that is zoned commercially, then the retailers do not have to remain 300 feet away from it. For instance, Little Folks School occupies a lot that is zoned commercially. For that reason, a retailer can be located within 300 feet of it. Nonetheless, proximity to a school (or library, or any other facility that draws children) can be cause to object to the location of a retailer. The ANC will be exploring that possibility as license applications come in.
So much so that the city renamed the Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Authority (ABRA) to the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA). The ABC Board is still called the ABC Board, but the C now stands for Cannabis. Seriously.