WASHINGTON - D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) has announced it will waive the city's 6% tax on medical marijuana.
The news arrives on 4/20, a day many marijuana users celebrate.
FOX 5 spoke to a Southeast D.C. "drug lord" – the owner of Anacostia Organics in Historic Anacostia – about the tax being waived. Anacostia Organics is one of the city’s seven medical marijuana dispensaries.
Its owner and CEO, Linda Mercado Greene, spoke about some of the hurdles she’s faced as a woman of color trying to open a licensed dispensary. It can get complicated!
"There are issues with banking. Once you’re legally licensed, your credit really shut down," Mercado Greene said. "I didn’t know that before I got in the business, so you know it’s hard. I can’t get home equity loans. I can’t get a car loan, credit card, or anything because I’m considered a drug lord in the government’s eyes."
Waiving the District’s 6% sales tax is part of the city’s first-ever Medical Cannabis Sales Tax Holiday, an effort to help those seven business owners including Mercado Greene, who have struggled to keep up with the city’s newer and unregulated recreational marijuana "gifting" businesses.
Here’s the full list of ABRA changes in honor of 4/20 week:
- Waiving of registration fees for patient and caregiver applicants
- Extending registration valid periods to two years from date of issuance
- Permitting self-certification by applicants 65 years of age or older in lieu of securing a healthcare recommendation
- Accepting telehealth recommendations
- Extending the valid period healthcare provider-issued recommendations
- Launching daily, walk-in registrations for applicants to receive their physical and digital registrations during their visit
- Pausing the deactivation of lapsed registrations
- Expanding the number of U.S. states and territories extended reciprocity
ABRA celebrated the first marijuana tax holiday at Anacostia Organics on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Southeast. The holiday also helps medical marijuana patients save a few hundred dollars whether they’re seniors from the neighborhood or a younger person from outside the city using cannabis to fight cancer.
Mercado Greene, the 70-year-old "drug lord," is a long-time D.C. resident who once worked for Marion Barry and various councilmembers. She has a public relations firm and hosts a cannabis podcast. Mercado Greene told FOX 5 that as a product of the 60s, she and her friends joked about it at first but then seriously began researching how to open a licensed dispensary.
In 2019, the enterprising business owner opened the first medical dispensary in Historic Anacostia. Forbes Magazine also heralds her as one of the first Black women to get a nation-wide dispensary license.
"It still is difficult for people of color to get into the business. First of all, we are not taken seriously. Secondly, it takes a heck of a lot of money to get in the business," Mercado Green said. "It’s almost impossible to get people to invest in you. And people of color don’t have generational wealth. So, a lot of people that are in the business actually had generational wealth. You know, it’s the old boys network."
"It is heavily regulated and costly, but it’s worth it all to bring quality medications to your community," she added.
The Southeast D.C. business owner also said under 280E tax code, she has to pay the IRS 60-80 cents of every revenue dollar. She spends thousands on license renewal fees and security fees, among other costs.
Mercado Greene tells FOX 5 the gray-area gifting marijuana industry is hurting the seven licensed dispensaries.
In the District, a gifting industry flourished out of a D.C. legal loophole where unregulated weed businesses sell items and "gift" recreational marijuana on the side. Several Black and Brown millennials who call themselves "I-71 compliant" gifting business owners, argue they should also be able to have a stake in the cannabis industry.
Mercado Greene is actually advocating for those millennial business owners to become legal owners in the District. She tells FOX 5 she wants an industry that is fair for Black people who have wrongly suffered from the war on drugs.