Four men arrested in November 2016 for distribution of marijuana at a Glover Park storefront pleaded guilty to felony distribution in May 2017. Sidi Chendid, Conner Donahue, Marvin Harvison and Gary Little all received a suspended incarceration sentence with probation, ranging from 6 to 12 months each. Harvison has a prior DC record of robbery, public alcohol consumption and a charge of domestic violence which was dropped. Little had a prior conviction of driving under the influence and a charge of marijuana possession with intent to distribute which was dismissed in 2010. Chendid and Donahue had no prior DC record.
The four apparently sought to take advantage of DC's three-year-old "Initiative 71" which legalized the private use and small-batch "gifting" of marijuana. Enterprising distributors, possibly on the bad advice of experts, figured they could distribute and comply with the law by selling other items and gifting the pot along with the sale. In this case, they set up an art gallery after renting the second floor of the Tennis Zone shop adjacent to Whole Foods at 2319 Wisconsin Ave, NW. They advertised their "art gallery" on craigslist and other online venues. Unfortunately for them, this scheme remains illegal and DC police have been pursuing such sales fairly aggressively in the past couple of years. In the year after the law took effect, arrests for possession and distribution dropped way down as law enforcement attempted to sort out the legal gray areas of the new law. As of 2016 though, arrests for distribution and public consumption have skyrocketed while misdemeanor arrests for possession and intent to distribute are down as definitions under the new law got sorted out. See the US News Stats here.
The owner of the building, Remy Esquenet, believes the police might have been alerted by a complaint from the neighboring Sprig and Sprout restaurant where the smell of marijuana was noticeable on the second floor. Mr. Esquenet also owns the Sprig and Sprout building. He got into a difficult situation about five years ago on a real estate venture with businessman Jeremy Landsman after Landsman was indicted on much larger-scale marijuana trafficking and money laundering charges. Landsman was not able to get loans due to the criminal charges. Mr. Esquenet initiated a lawsuit for fraud against Landsman to extricate himself from the business relationship. Landsman filed a counter-claim against Mr. Esquenet for doctored financial statements (which Mr. Esquenet denied), and after about 6 months their dispute was settled out of court.
Well, the Glover Park case is closed and testing the boundaries of the somewhat vague new law has proven costly for many in DC. Where does it go from here?