Commissioners Protest Medical Retail Cannabis Application

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Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B met via Zoom on Jan. 9. Frank Avery (6B01, treasurer); Jerry Sroufe (6B02); David Sobelsohn (6B03, secretary); Frank D’Andrea (6B04); Kasie Durkit (6B05); Chander Jayaraman (6B06); Vince Mareino (6B07, vice chair); Edward Ryder (6B08, chair); and Matt LaFortune (6B09) were present.

UpNSmoke LLC, an I-71 cannabis retailer located at 427 Eighth St. SE, asked the commission to support its application to the Alcohol Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA) for a Medical Retail Cannabis License.

Emergency legislation adopted last year by the DC Council allows I-71 retailers a 90-day window to apply for medical cannabis retailer licenses. The application period opened on Nov. 1, 2023 and will close on Jan. 29, 2024.

UpNSmoke is at least 50 percent owned by Hassan Dib, stated the store’s attorney Zack Learman, meeting all three standards to qualify as a “social equity applicant.” He is a DC resident who earns less than 150 percent of the median area family income and was previously convicted of a cannabis or drug-related offense.

Commissioners were concerned that UpNSmoke had not reached a Settlement Agreement (SA). They voted to protest the application, while the agreement was under negotiation, to maintain their standing, said Chair Ryder. Under the current law, there is no process for the commission to request an extension of the hearing date. Advisory Neighborhood Commissions are the only group allowed standing under the law.

ANC 6B commissioners were primarily concerned with security. UpNSmoke employs one of the only security services approved by ABCA, Learman stated. Security is always on site to verify identification and sales as well as behavior after purchase, he added. Learman posited that this adds to the overall safety of the street.

Learman promised to work with the commission to move to full compliance with the medical marijuana program and with the law. Applicants understood why commissioners needed to protest, Learman stated. “We’re in the gray and we’re looking to move to the white,” he said.

UpNSmoke has three locations. Their Eighth Street SE site has been open for about a year. They have two more storefronts at 3289 M St. NE and 712 15th St. NE. The second location is applying for a medical license under the purview of ANC 6A.

The ANC has three applications for a medical retailer license under consideration, stated ANC 6B Alcohol Beverage & Cannabis (ABC) Committee Chair Jayaraman. These include UpNSmoke as well as No Kids Allowed at 637 Pennsylvania Ave. SE and DC Dash at 727 Eighth St. SE. Protests for the latter two were supported on the consent agenda, also in pursuit of an SA.

Cannabis Legislation Supported

In January, DC Council passed the Medical Cannabis Enforcement Emergency Amendment Act of 2024, introduced by Councilmember Allen. The legislation gives ABCA the teeth to go after gifting shops, prohibiting them from representing themselves as I-71 shops or selling cannabis at all. Allen’s office said he will introduce a permanent version in the coming weeks. The ANC voted 8-0-1 to support emergency legislation proposed by Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) to address a gap in enforcement.

The commission requested the DC Council to revise permanent legislation so that the distance permitted between businesses holding medical cannabis licenses and schools aligns with regulations for alcohol licenses. Law allows for 300 feet for a business selling cannabis and 400 for one selling alcoholic beverages. ANC 6B also asked that future legislation include a process to request an extension of the protest deadline.

Outstanding Public Service Award

ANC 6B Commissioners voted to give the ANC 6B Public Service Award to former ANC 6B Commissioner and current Barracks Row Main Street Director Brian Ready. The award recognizes an individual who provides outstanding service to the community and facilitates the work of the ANC.

In accepting the award, Ready said he was surprised and humbled. He thanked the commissioners for their service, particularly noting his successor, David Sobelsohn. Sobelsohn thanked Ready for the assistance Ready had supplied to him as he took on the role. “I’m proud to have you as a constituent,” Sobelsohn joked.

Chair Ryder added that the award was well-deserved, thanking Ready for his work past, present “and hopefully, future.”

Election of New Officers

Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) Chair Chuck Burger presided over the election of new ANC 6B Executive Officers. Re-elected to their offices were: Edward Ryder (Chair), Frank Avery (Treasurer,) Katie Durkit (Parliamentarian) and David Sobelsohn (Secretary). Vince Marieno was newly elected as Vice Chair, taking over from Chander Jayaraman.

In Other Business

The commission voted to send a letter of condolence on the death of Chris Laskowski to his family and to the Office of Councilmember Allen. Laskowski, who died suddenly Jan. 7, was a father of two and Legislative Director in Allen’s office. The letter remembered him as “an invaluable resource to the commission with an unbreakable commitment to the city and ward he called home.” “Simply put, he made Ward 6 better,” the letter concluded. “He will be missed.”

Commissioners voted to draft and post signs near the Southeast Library providing directions to Arthur Capper Recreation Center and Northeast Library, alternate facilities while the Southeast Library is under construction. Current signage only offers directions using a QR code. Sobelsohn said that is not helpful to the bulk
of in-person users, most of whom go to libraries to use computers and are unlikely to own
a smartphone.

Commissioners voted unanimously to send a letter regarding illegal construction at 319 Ninth St. SE to the Department of Buildings (DOB), alerting the agency to at least two
major projects at that address allegedly undertaken without permits. The letter requests that DOB ensure that the projects, a new back porch and basement excavation, are safe and code compliant. It also requests that DOB respond to concerns with inspection processes raised by this incident.

ANC 6B next meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13. See the agenda and information on how to join at anc6b.org