A Washington, D.C.
“Our goal is to have them produce the information associated with the chain of custody of that money, and to just return it. That’s really it,” Charles Walton, an attorney representing Mr. Nice Guys,
In 2015, voters in the nation’s capital legalized cannabis for use by adults with the passage of Initiative 71. But cannabis prohibitionists in the U.S. Congress have opposed efforts to regulate dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana, leaving the city’s medical marijuana retailers as the only regulated source of cannabis.
As a result, a quasi-legal industry of dozens of cannabis gifting shops that take advantage of the unregulated market has sprung up across Washington, D.C. The scheme takes advantage of a loophole in Initiative 71 that allows adults to transfer cannabis to another adult provided that “no money, goods, or services are exchanged.”
Under the common cannabis gifting shop grey-market business model, relatively benign merchandise such as art, clothing or other legal merchandise is offered for sale at inflated prices. Customers can then purchase one of the items at the stated price and also receive what is ostensibly a gift of cannabis at the same time. The Mr. Nice Guys website shows several different cannabis products including infused
Unsuccessful Attempts To Control D.C. Weed Gifting Shops
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and other city leaders have made several attempts to control the marijuana gifting shops. Mendelson tried to pass legislation to regulate the shops on two occasions earlier this year, and in June the city announced an initiative to allow medical marijuana patients to self-certify their eligibility to use cannabis medicinally.
“The District has to get control of this illegal market,”
In August, a plan to conduct inspections of marijuana gifting shops for violations of fire codes, tax laws, and labor statutes was put on hold before getting off the ground over safety and legal concerns raised by police.
The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has also made attempts to reign in the marijuana gifting shop industry, conducting raids on shops that often result in the arrest of employees on the site and the seizure of cannabis and cash. The lawsuit filed by Mr. Nice Guys is related to raids on two of the company’s shops in August 2021. According to the lawsuit, police seized more than $67,000 and destroyed two ATMs when they raided a Mr. Nice Guys location on Ninth Street.
A police spokesperson said three people were arrested at the store and charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. However, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia decided not to pursue charges against those arrested at the shop, according to the lawsuit.
Police also raided a Mr. Nice Guys shop on Eight Street on the same day last year. Two employees were charged with intent to distribute marijuana, while a third employee working as a security guard was charged with intent to distribute while armed and gun charges. Police seized about 15 pounds of marijuana and took $6,200 from Damani Batchler, an employee who is also a named plaintiff in the suit.
“Defendant District of Columbia’s D.C. police (‘MPD’) routinely and unlawfully holds cash seized from individuals who have been arrested — many of whom are never charged with a crime — for months or even years past the point where the government might have any continuing legitimate interest in retaining said cash while providing no process to challenge that retention,” the lawsuit alleges.
The Washington Post reports that the police department directed questions regarding the case to the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, which declined to comment on the ongoing case. A spokesperson for Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, did not respond to a request for comment.