DC Marijuana Laws Create New Territory
The smoke shop’s landlord, Demers Real Estate, took the retailer to court to have the store evicted. Eventually, Capitol Hemp won the case. Technically, what it was doing—selling pipes and smoking accessories under the guise of tobacco use only—was not illegal. Yet still, they were forced to close down the store. This was due to an agreement reached to reclaim their thousands of dollars of seized inventory.
Demers could not be reached for comment.
Stories like this were common for head shops in the District. Then DC residents voted to legalize the growing and possession of marijuana and the sale of paraphernalia. Since the law went into effect last year, a new industry of boutique head shops and hydroponic stores has begun to emerge, although not without its roadblocks. After Capitol Hemp shut down in 2012, its co-owner, Adam Eidinger, decided to focus his efforts on changing the law. He led the DC Cannabis Campaign that successfully convinced voters to pass Initiative 71 in 2014.
Finding a Retail Space that will lease to DC MArijuana-based businesses
Even for a marijuana-focused advocacy campaign, Adam struggled to find a landlord who would lease to him. Unable to find office space for the campaign, Adam rented a house under his own name and used it as an office.
“Nobody would rent to us, as soon as they heard what it’s for they were like ‘no, we don’t want to,'” Adam says. “It was full discrimination. We would say, ‘there’s nobody using here, it’s just a campaign office.'”
Broker Bill Miller of Miller Walker Retail Real Estate, says his firm has no policy against working with marijuana-related retailers, but they haven’t been contacted by anyone looking to open a headshop or a grow shop. Bill, with partner Alex Walker, says he has not noticed a significant number of new pot-related businesses opening, but would expect more movement if DC were to legalize sales of marijuana as Colorado and Washington states have done. “I bet there are people looking very closely at whether or not it becomes legal from a retail perspective,” Bill says. “That would be big financially for the city. We would certainly see positive tax increases, sales and there would be some retail leasing. Probably not a whole lot by way of square footage, maybe a few new storefronts.”