DCRA/City Faulted as Weed Business Moves into Capitol Hill Residential Neighborhood
by Larry Janezich
The issue of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCRA) allowing businesses to erode residential neighborhoods came up again Wednesday night, but this time in Hill East.
Puff, Pass, and Paint (PP&P) is a new business model emerging in states that have legalized weed. For $50 a head, the company says:
“Come join us for the original Puff, Pass & Paint class, with sessions held in Denver, Portland, Seattle, and now Washington DC! 2-hour Puff, Pass & Paint class – all art supplies included; 21 +; non-refundable/non-transferable. Please note that this event is BYOC (bring your own cannabis) and BYOB/wine in order to comply with local laws that prohibit the provision of cannabis. Exact address will be provided after purchase of ticket in order to comply with local laws for private cannabis events.”
Hill East resident Dan Wolff, a neighbor to such an establishment, complained to ANC6A’s Planning and Economic Development Committee that the business was operating illegally, beyond what city regulations permit. Wolff objects to the second hand cannabis smoke that seeps into his house through a common wall as well as the coming and going of numerous clients.
Wolff says he is an Initiative 71 (decriminalizing weed in DC) supporter, but has three issues with the business next door. 1) it’s a personal nuisance, 2) the lax DCRA permitting and enforcement process, 3) and Initiative 71 prohibitions regarding consumption of cannabis in a public space.
His complaint about businesses moving into a residential neighborhood on Capitol Hill is increasingly common (see CHC post here: http://bit.ly/2r2EugS and here http://bit.ly/2lCPIbr). Wolff says he objects to the business because “as a father and homeowner, I have a stake in the community larger than myself or my block”.
DCRA regulations permit a portion of a residence to be used as office space, but generally limit that use to 250 square feet and the number of clients to 8 per hour. PP&P advertises classes of 20 per event. Former ANC6A Chair David Holmes who attended the hearing to support Wolff’s position, asserted that the business requires a zoning adjustment to operate out of a townhouse.
Regarding Initiative 71, Wolff said, regulations prohibit smoking cannabis in a public place, and, since the definition includes “any place to which the public is invited”, the business is operating illegally. In addition, he said, “the operation would not be permitted in an area zoned commercial and it’s inconsistent to allow it to operate in a residential area. The house is within a stone’s throw of Options Charter School and within 500 feet of Miner Elementary”. Wolff is asking the ANC to pressure the city’s bureaucracy to point out to city officials that some lines need to be drawn regarding Initiative 71.
Committee Chair Brad Greenfield noted that DCRA has issued PP&P a business license and a Home Use Permit and that enforcement of cannabis regulations is a “hot potato no one wants to touch.” The business, he added, may be operating legally because no one is willing to say what is legal and what is not.”
None the less, the Committee agreed that the issue needs to be clarified, and voted to make two recommendations to the full ANC for consideration at its meeting on June 15:
1) That the ANC write a letter to the Mayor asking her to designate which city agencies are charged with regulation marijuana businesses in residential areas.
2) That the ANC appeal the issuance of permits for the business by DCRA. (Greenfield said details on the basis of the appeal would be forthcoming.)