Dispensaries open amid backlash

The medical dispensary, Green Theory, is scheduled to open next month despite backlash. (Joy Young/HU News Service)

By Joy Young

Green Theory, a new medical marijuana shop, is facing backlash due to its 1,000-foot proximity to five private schools, including a preschool. 

Earlier this month, the Palisades community, which stretches from the edge of the Georgetown University campus to the D.C. Maryland boundary expressed concerns over the shop’s location.

“I’m not really comfortable with these dispensaries in family-friendly areas,” Jake Calhoon, a resident of Penn Quarter for seven years, said. :There’s a bunch of neighborhoods around here and I think dispensaries would be better suited in a place that doesn’t have kids running around.” 

Green Theory plans to open on a strip of small businesses at 4828 MacArthur Blvd NW.

The 1000-foot coalition has been protesting the opening and filed a public records request for Green Theory’s business plan. The group’s name references the prohibition of drugs within 1,000 feet of public and private schools. 

Federal law states that dispensaries cannot operate within 300 feet of schools, including daycares and recreation centers. However, if the school is zoned in a commercial area where retail, housing, and even schools can be found, dispensaries can apply for their license nearby. 

Last March, D.C.’s Medical Cannabis Amendment Act rolled into effect, allowing a 90-day period for businesses to apply for a license if they could prove that they had been in operation for over a year. 

The transitional period allows businesses that have been operating under the table to become official, which many dispensaries such as Green Theory and Basis DC are taking advantage of, but also inadvertently included the loophole.

Jamal Preacher, the owner of the dispensary Legends on H Street, believes the stigma against cannabis is cause for residents questioning the shop’s opening. 

“I get that the legalization is new to a lot of people, there’s still a stigma,” he said. “Do people question when a new liquor store opens up in their neighborhood? Why is it different if both of these substances are reserved for people that are 21+ and are strictly carded?”

In January of this year, Basis DC, a charter high school in Penn Quarter, voiced concerns, claiming that the opening of a dispensary puts nearby students at risk. 

During the hearing in February, the ANC3D unanimously voted to allow the dispensary to open. 

ANC Commissioner Michael Shankle is working towards creating emergency legislation to address the loophole, allowing the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Association to issue warnings and fines to unlicensed businesses. He said that he doesn’t want to alienate students who go to school downtown by placing dispensaries down the street. 

“When we’re thinking about reinventing and revitalizing downtown post-pandemic and post-potential Capital One Arena situation, we do not want to alienate D.C. residents who use downtown for their schools,” he said. 

The Palisades ANC wrote a formal letter of support for Green Theory’s opening but said that the store has to agree to specific terms and conditions, such as creating a discrete storefront and an agreement to police the consumption of weed outside of their store.