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Usually, city councilmembers try to attract new businesses to their wards, especially when they’re hurting for jobs and industry. That pattern breaks down, however, when it comes to medical marijuana—-for no logical or empirical reason. It was one thing when Councilmember Vincent Orange, in his self-appointed role as Ward 5’s interim caretaker, limited the number of marijuana cultivation centers in that ward to six. But yesterday, Councilmember Yvette Alexander killed the single business in her ward that had made it through the Department of Health’s initial screening.
Her reason? The proposed location, a warehouse at 3701 Benning Road NE, would retard the development of a fragile business district. The emergency legislation, passed without a public hearing, would exclude all cultivation centers from all “retail priority areas,” of which there are six throughout the city. In most cases, they don’t overlap with zones in which cultivation centers are allowed, anyway. In this case, it barely does. The warehouse is situated next to the train tracks, not on any main streets where it would be an unfriendly presence. In fact, as I explained last fall, the kinds of security measures the grow operations have to have would be a benefit, not a threat.
Land use policy aside, this is just a terrible way to deal with a large program in which people have invested millions of dollars. If Alexander had a problem with the regulations, she could have made it known years ago. Why would an entrepreneur ever participate in a District-sponsored initiative like this if he or she is just going to get fucked with at the last minute? It’s also worth pointing out that if the council tries something similar on the dispensaries, which are currently scattered throughout the city’s commercial districts, the program would die altogether.
None of these things matter in an election year, when kneejerk opposition to a product that’s freighted with all sorts of irrational fears is a cheap way to win votes, or at least not lose them.