DC residents sue city over cannabis dispensaries in their neighborhoods

A group of Northwest D.C. residents, as well as one of D.C.’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, is going to court to stop new cannabis dispensaries from opening up, saying the locations they’ve chosen are too close to schools and the city isn’t listening to their concerns.

The case has been appealed to the D.C. Court of Appeals and was filed by a group called 1,000 Feet, which is made up of residents in D.C.’s Palisades neighborhood, as well as ANC-2C.

“We want to protect D.C. kids from unnecessary exposure to drugs,” said Lucy Sullivan, speaking on behalf of 1,000 Feet. “We don’t believe that marijuana stores should operate across the street or next door to schools, and the D.C. government has been allowing that. And we think it’s a real danger to kids and communities.”

Currently, the city requires 300 feet of distance between cannabis dispensaries and schools or day care facilities, but there are some loopholes in the law. Sullivan said even 300 feet is too lenient, and said the city should abide by the 1,000 feet rule described in the Federal Drug Free School Zone Act, which prohibits the sale of illegal drugs within 1,000 feet of public or private schools.

“There is federal law that has been put in place to protect children, to ensure their safety and their health. And we think that the D.C. government needs to abide by that law,” said Sullivan.

Efforts to protest the license for Green Theory, the dispensary currently open and operating on MacArthur Boulevard NW, were thrown out by D.C.’s Alcohol Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA) for lack of standing.

“They want to have the right to protest and the right to be heard,” said Mark Lytle, who is suing D.C. on behalf of ANC-2C, which is trying to stop a dispensary from opening up in the Penn Quarter neighborhood.

He said in the case of the 1,000 Feet group, they were stymied because they lacked the support from their local ANC.

“We have not had a voice in this process. So the process itself also needs to change,” said Sullivan. “We believe that the kids and communities deserve a voice and a say in this, and we’re hoping that the courts will agree.”

Lytle is also hoping the case could lead to some federal intervention too.

“Congress has the authority to allow the Department of Justice to enforce the 1,000-foot rule,” said Lytle. “And we think that maybe this will bring some attention to this issue and might get some help from congressional authors who are writing any riders or things that limit the Department of Justice from taking some action.”

Green Theory and the ABCA did not return calls and emails from WTOP for further comment.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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