A Washington, D.C. cannabis company called Mr. Nice Guys DC recently sued the city for seizing more than $750,000 in cash during raids that occurred in 2021.
Mr. Nice Guys DC co-owners Damion West and Gregory Wimsatt seek justice for the money the police seized. “I’m going to be a voice for the people who don’t have a voice,” West told News4. “I’m not going to stand for it. We have done nothing wrong. We’re operating in a gray space that they created, and the only thing we want is our money back.”
“Like, where is the justice? They come in, kick in our door, raid us, you know take our money,” Wimsatt said.
In August 2021, police raided two Mr. Nice Guys DC dispensaries. The lawsuit describes the raid in greater detail, showing how the police took “$67,000 and destroyed two ATMs at the shop while searching the Ninth Street location. A spokesperson for DC’s Metropolitan Police Dept. (MPD) said three people were arrested at the store and charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. The U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia chose not to prosecute those who were arrested,” the lawsuit reads.
The case against Mr. Nice Guys DC was dropped, but the co-owners never got their cash back. “Defendant District of Columbia’s D.C. police (MPD) routinely and unlawfully holds cash seized from individuals who have been arrested—many of whom are never charged with a crime—for months or even years past the point where the government might have any continuing legitimate interest in retaining said cash while providing no process to challenge that retention,” the lawsuit states.
“It’s been close to about $800,000 in product and cash. What we specifically asked for in this case was just the cash. That’s not including loss of damages in product. We’ve had other situations where they’ve actually banned us from our location,” Wimsatt explained.
The co-owners’ attorney, Charles Walton, told The Washington Post that the main goal of the lawsuit is to retrieve the seized cash. “D.C. police failed to return the seized money after investigations concluded and related criminal charges were withdrawn or dismissed,” Walton said. “Our goal is to have them produce the information associated with the chain of custody of that money, and to just return it.”
Cannabis dispensaries operate in a gray area in Washington D.C. Adult-use cannabis is legal, as voters approved it back in 2014, and possession, home cultivation, and gifting is allowed. Due to the “Harris rider,” (named in reference to Rep. Andy Harris) a Congressional rider that has been included in the 2014 omnibus bill prevents sales from being legal. To work around this, local dispensaries like Mr. Nice Guys DC sell non-cannabis items and customers receive cannabis as a “gift” with purchase.
In August 2022, Washington, D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration announced that it would be inspecting unlicensed cannabis businesses. By September, the inspections were delayed, creating more uncertainty about the future of these businesses.
Luckily, medical cannabis patients have remained a focus for Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who signed a bill in July to allow patients to self-certify themselves for a cannabis prescription, rather than waiting for a doctor’s recommendation. “We have made it a priority over the years to build a more patient-centric medical marijuana program and this legislation builds on those efforts,” Bowser said. “We know that by bringing more medical marijuana patients into the legal marketplace in a timely manner and doing more to level the playing field for licensed medical marijuana providers, we can protect residents, support local businesses, and provide clarity to the community.”
On October 20, Bowser also signed a bill that allows tourists to self-certify for medical cannabis as well. With this new law, tourists may obtain a 30-day registration to purchase from dispensaries when they visit the nation’s capital.