Loose Lips

Mayor Gray, Drug Warrior

There's an old maxim in politics: When the going gets rough, it's time to get tough on immigrant convenience store clerks. Especially those who speak limited English and sell rolling papers and individually wrapped cigars to pot smokers in a poor part of the city.

That was today's agenda for Mayor Vince Gray, whose political career could be teetering on the edge as the federal investigation into his 2010 mayoral campaign enters its end game: Gray decided to dole out a little justice of his own, regulatory style.

Hizzoner and a small army of city officials and community activists surprised convenience, liquor, and Chinese carry-out stores along Martin Luther King Avenue SE with impromptu inspections of their wares and business licenses. In a scene that repeated itself about a dozen times, Gray and the officials, including Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Director Nicholas Majett, would walk into a store, head straight behind the counter (often without asking permission), and give the East African or Chinese cashier on duty a stern talking to about the products they were were selling that a marijuana user might find useful.

"You can't do that," Gray told the employees of the China Inn Deli, after he spotted an open box of cigars next to the cash register. "You opened that up and sell them as singles." (Gray brought along Julie Koo, his director of the Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, to help translate.)

The store's owner, who did not appear to speak much English, didn't disagree. "Okay, okay," he said, putting the cigars in a plastic bag and shoving the bag under the counter. He then tried to get Gray to take a free soda.

City law prohibits selling rolling papers (except in limited circumstances) and individually wrapped cigars. Most of the stores Gray went into didn't look to be following city law to a T. "This is a warning," Gray told one clerk. "Next time,  it's a $2,000 fine."

If Gray felt a little weird about playing the role of a tough-talking law-and-order mayor in the same week that details emerged of a vast, illegal shadow campaign that helped him get elected in 2010, he sure didn't show it.

At one liquor store Gray huffed at the owners even though they weren't selling anything illegal: "We'll be back to make sure you're not selling rolling papers."

When LL asked Gray if he thought his recent troubles limited his effectiveness on jaunts like the one today (which his spokesman says was planned several weeks ago), Gray looked at LL like the mayor was Bryce Harper and LL was asking about his favorite Canadian beer.

"Not based on what I've seen," Gray said, with a finger pointed in the air.

Gray was warmly received by most non-store owners and clerks. Several people asked him for a job, and one woman urged him to stay strong in the face of the federal probe. "Don't let them try to get you," the woman said, before adding that she needed a job. Another woman at a different convenience store, however, looked annoyed that Gray was delaying her purchases. "Can you ring me up?" she said. "I gotta go to work."

Besides the talkin' to, businesses owners were also given a letter signed by Gray and Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, who has had his fair share of drug-use issues in his past and caused a flap several months ago by denigrating the type of stores Gray visited today as "dirty shops" owned by Asians.

"The negative impact on illegal drugs in our community is devastating," the letter said. "We respectfully request that all businesses in this community stop selling rolling paper, blunts, miniature plastic bags (not containing jewelry), miniature scales, and loose cigarettes."

It did not seem like many of the foreign-born clerks would be able to read the letters without some assistance, as they often appeared to have no idea what the mayor was saying. Majett said it's a common ploy for immigrant clerks to claim poor English skills whenever dealing with the DCRA. "We always get that," he said. And Gray said they were still getting the message. "They don't speak English well, but they understand this is an enforcement visit," he said.

At one of the last stores Gray visited, a clerk tried to leave the enclosed space behind the counter after Gray and his entourage burst in. A mayoral staffer stopped her, and she got the anti-drug paraphernalia lecture, too.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Comments

  1. #1

    What a bumbling fool this mayor is. So this is how he plans to shore up his base?

  2. #2

    Sure. Shore up your base by striking out against an unpopular minority group. Right out of the Lester Maddux and George C. Wallace playbook. Go Gray!

  3. #3

    Really? ... Really? Even if he wasn't under federal investigation, the mayor has nothing better to do with his time? And the department heads don't either? I'll admit that I think we need to just grow up and legalize marijuana (no, I will not be using it if legalized, I tried it once and didn't enjoy it), but this is the epitome of failed drug war grandstanding. Here's exactly what will happen if we succeed in enforcing this law: http://bit.ly/NnpaQZ , you know, besides going to VA to buy them. I bet the Metro doesn't even go to VA...

  4. #4

    Are you allowed to do that if you do not have police powers? Especially, the part about a mayoral staffer stopping a clerk. That seems a bit inappropriate for someone who is neither an officer, nor an inspector. You should look into that.

  5. #5

    I hate this MAYOR!!! Where were you when Marion Barry complained about the conditions of these stores. I am sick of him allowing others to be thrown under the bus for LORRAINW GREEN AND HIS CRAZY WAYS.

    Welcome to HELL BOYS!!!!! Just like us volunteers.... huh? Who believes YOU now crazy maniac!!

  6. #6

    Great Job, I feel safer already. The people wanting to roll a jay will now have to buy the whole box of cigars or use a cigarette paper.

    You sir have won a free ticket to the FAIL BOAT!

  7. #7

    Amazing. While (his) Rome burns, this is what Vince finds to do...

    Too funny. Well one citidiots, it sure has been fun.

  8. #8

    Deflecting attention just a little from his illegal campaign activities, Mayor Gray shows those dirty asians just who is boss...for now. Hello, Mayor Mendelson? We will be needing you a little sooner than we thought.

  9. #9

    Oh and Julie Koo, you must have been very proud of the service you were providing for the community that day. Totally pathetic.

  10. #10

    Mayor Gray, you are a good and strong man. Keep up the good work.

  11. #11

    Mayor Gray will survive these attacks. While his opposition is determined to bring him down, black folks are equally determined to save and support him. Whether people want to accept it or not, this city is witnessing a political war as it has never seen before. And,it's a war that blacks in this city must and will win.

  12. #12

    Where are the comments in support of the mayor now? All the myopic little twits from wards 7 and 8 are silent now.

  13. #13

    YOU HAVE BOZO MAKING 3 COMMENTS AND AIN’T STAYIN’ SHIT WHILE FLAILING AROUND LIKE SOME SPOILED WHITE CHILD IN THE GROCERY STORE NOT GETTING WHAT HE WANTS!

    THEN YOU HAVE MOPSY (SUSAN) AND FLOPSY (WAIT, WHAT) COMMENTING AS IF THEY WERE LOOKING INTO EACH OTHERS LAPEL FLOWERS AND SQUIRTING WATER IN EACH OTHERS EYE.

    THEN YOU HAVE THE REST OF CLOWN COLLEGE 2016 SPEWING DUMB SHIT THEN STEPPING IN IT!

    YO MS.D-JUST LIKE FENTY’S DUMB ASS BANNED SINGLE BEER SALES. NOW THAT WAS A WASTE OF TIME!

    THE WORST MAYOR IN DC HISTORY COULD NOT COUNT PAST ONE SO THEY STARTED SELLING DOUBLE PACKS. INCREASING FOLKS ALCOHOL INTAKE IN ONE SESSION AND THEREBY EXACERBATING THE ISSUE HE THOUGHT WOULD DISSIPATE.

    THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS SINGLE CIGAR SALES (ESPECIALLY TO MINORS) ARE ALREADY ILLEGAL AND I’M SURE IT CUTS INTO MUCH NEEDED TAXES FOR FIGHTING TOBACCO USE. I WOULD RATHER HAVE THEM USE ANYTHING ELSE THAN TO USE BLUNTS.

    AS FOR DEPARTMENT HEADS THIS IS THE JOB THEY WERE HIRED TO DO.

    CALL 911 THE CLOWN CAR JUST CRASHED.

    ONE CITY!

  14. #14

    LMAO!! Gray is not a crook but damn he does some dumb shit!

  15. #15

    Grandstanding and a blustering photo opportunity does not improve communities or the lives of DC residents ... it does make DC look pathetic on the national stage.

    It seems the Mayor should be encouraging and promoting small business owners. His constituents would be better served if small business owners where provided compressible rules and guidelines written in such a way a layman can understand and comply with.

    When Mayor Gray was top dog on the city council he himself could not figure out the DC laws and permits required for building a fence around his own house ... who would have guessed you should use a contractor licensed in the District of Columbia and a fence in a residential area might have a height requirement?

    SELLING rolling papers and other drug paraphernalia is half of the problem. As a consumer I can choose not to frequent head shops.
    USING the drug paraphernalia a is a bigger problem. What is the Mayor doing to keep illegal drug users from flooding into DC neighborhoods?

    What is the Mayor doing to keep drug users off of the streets.

    Recent convictions and revelations of the Districts elected officials make a strong case against home-rule.

  16. #16

    "Don't let them try to get you," the woman said, before adding that she needed a job

    - and that's pretty much all you need to know about the District of Columbia.

  17. #17

    CHEATED IN DC 2010 MUST LIVE IN WARD 3!

    THE IGNORANCE OF HIS COMMENT IS PROOF POSITIVE OF HOW OUT OF TOUCH SOME FOLK ARE.

    NATIONAL STAGE??!!!

    CHAMP WHO GIVES A FUCK ABOUT THE NATIONAL STAGE WHEN CHILDREN AND FOLK WHO NEED TO CHANGE THEIR LIFE DIRECTION ARE PROVIDED EASY ACCESS TO SHIT THAT DOES NOT PROMOTE OR PRODUCE ANY POSITIVE OUTCOMES.

    STOP WORRYING ABOUT WHAT THE MAYOR IS DOING AND STOP YOUR WHINING LONG ENOUGH TO GO VOLUNTEER TO HELP YOUNG FOLK MAKE SOME POSITIVE DECISIONS.

    ONE CITY.

  18. #18

    the noodle is chimping out as usual

  19. umis habit hummm
    #19

    DAMN!!! I cant wait til noodlez reams ch a new one re #16.cause nobody does it better. 'Chimping'? Is that as in chimpanzee????

  20. #20

    Is this even legal?

  21. #21

    What a douchebag

  22. #22

    Noodlez, who is your favorite Nat?

  23. #23

    @TRUTH-1.HARP 2.DEZ 3.STRAS

  24. #24

    @ noodlez.

    Honestly man, you make black people look stupid. If you don't have anything constructive to say, and if you can't refrain from writing in all CAPS, then don't say anything at all.

    Mayor Gray's days are pretty much over. Face it. He messed up real bad and there is no one to blame but himself.

  25. #25

    NOODLEZ HAS A POINT.

    What it is I don't know. How a mayor of a major city going to convenience stores is a productive use of his time I don't know. The fact that he is under investigation by the Feds aside, it seems beneath city cops to even investigate this BS.

  26. #26

    After Marion's attacks of Asians in his ward. Great that the Mayor and Director Koo care enough to help in Ward 8. Everybit helps relations between cultures and builds community.

  27. #27

    Yeah, pot is to blame for all the ills of the city. Malt liquor, on the other hand, just makes people docile and sociable. Right, Mr. Mayor? Get a life.

  28. #28

    Noodlez does not have a point. He is just a shrill apologist for Barry, Gray and all of the other faded DC criminals, cheats, fools and liars. He sees the city improving all around him in ways that do not allow for layabout denizens of "chocolate city" to get a free ride. It scares him so he lashes out at anyone different from him. Whites, gays, asians, college educated blacks...anyone who he feels inferior to.

  29. #29

    Agree about Dez and Harp. They play the game all out. Love the beast, too. Have you seen his bobblehead? Awesome. Hope he leaves the yard a lot more soon. Re pitchers, Stras, Gio and Clip are my faves. Maybe the Nats will unite the city.

  30. #30

    @GOLDCOAST-I MAKE BLACK PEOPLE LOOK STUPID???
    HAVE YOU LOOKED IN THE MIRROR LATELY?
    WHEN YOUR MOTHER DROPPED THE STEAMY PILE THAT IS YOU, YOUR FATHER WACKED HER ON THE NOSE WITH A ROLLED UP NEWSPAPER AND TOLD HER TO TAKE THAT SHIT OUTSIDE NEXT TIME.

    BAMMA WHAT YOU NEED TO DO IS TAKE THAT DOMINATRIX FETISH YOU HAVE AND APPLY IT TO SOMETHING WORTH WHILE AND GIVE YOUR GERMAN SHEPHERD A BREAK!

    *********************************************************************************************
    @POUND-AHHH I BELEIVE YOU JUST MADE MY POINT FOR ME.

    WHY BACKLOG CRIMJUST SYSTEM WITH PETTY CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS LIKE LANIER DID UNDER FENTY. WHEN THE FOLKS WHO SHOULD BE ENFORCING THESE CONVEINENCE STORES (THAT BARRY CALLED OUT BY THE WAY BECAUSE HE KNOW OF WHAT HE SPEAKS) CAN DO IT ON ANOTHER LEVEL.
    *********************************************************************************************

    @MARIO-MOST 211 DRINKERS ARE MORE THAN LIKELY TO CONTINUE TO DRINK 211’S OR SOME OTHER BEER OR ALCOHOL THEY CAN AFFORD BE IT SINGLES, DOUBLES OR SIX PACKS AND CHILL THE FUCK OUT OR ARGUE AMONGST THEMSELVES.

    AS OPPOSED TO YOUNG AND IMMATURE OVER-INDULGING WEED SMOKERS WHO HAVE A TENDENCY TO START EXPERIMENTING WITH DIPPERS AND PCP LACED BLUNTS.

  31. #31

    Thankfully, these quality of life nuisance problems will largely disappear once gentrification is completed in wards 4, 5 and 6.

  32. #32

    @NEW DC-DIFFERENT HANDLE SAME OL' COMMENT.
    GET OFF THE MYOPIC LIL TWIT TALKING POINTS. YOUR COMMENT SOUNDS JUST LIKE A REDUMBLICAN REBUTTAL. IT IS IGNORANT, RIGID AND ADHERING TO THE MANTRA.

    SLIM YOU DON’T KNOW ME OR WHAT I BELIEVE IN BUT WHAT I’M NOT GOING TO STAND FOR ARE CLOWNS LIKE YOU AND YOUR FAKE ASS BELIEF THAT YOU HAVE BEEN HERE 5 MINUTES AND THINK YOU ARE RUNNING SHIT.

    YOUR WEAK ASS, CLOSET RACIST COMMENT SHOWS THAT YOU ARE A TYPICAL TWIT PUNK LABELING AND JUDGING WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE.
    LET ME HELP YOU OUT A BIT SO YOUR NEXT COMMENT ABOUT ME WON’T BE SO MILQUETOAST TELLING.

    MY BEST FRIEND IS WHITE.
    I PLAY ON A FLAG FOOTBALL TEAM WITH ASIANS.
    75% OF MY FAMILY IS COLLEGE EDUCATED.
    I DON’T BELIEVE FOLKS ARE BORN HOMOSEXUAL.
    LAST BUT NOT LEAST I AM NOT INFERIOR TO ANYONE!

    YOU LUCKY THE DAY IS SUNDAY BECAUSE IF YOU WOULD HAD CAME AT ME WITH THAT LAME ASS BULLSHIT DURING THE WEEK I WOULD HAVE FED YOUR ASS SOME CHIN MUSIC.

    ONE CITY.

  33. #33

    one city fail

  34. #34

    The suspense is killing me. Bring on the crazy, racist, homophobic all caps tirade comeback. It is everything to me.

  35. #35

    Somewhere AD is laughing his ass off...Hey, ya'll wanted this right? AD was too arrogant (true dat), too involved with Ron Moten and Peaceaholics (true dat too) but this guy failed out the gate (ironic seeing how it started with the fence around his house...lol)

    Oh well...back to Laughingstock City

  36. #36

    A waste of time. If the mayor isn't talking about jobs, why even bother to come to Ward 8.

  37. Running of the BULLsh!t
    #37

    Wake me when there is breaking news that Vincent Gray has resigned!

  38. #38

    Apparently it is important to drive every last job and business out of DC, or at least every job that is not a 6 figure lobbyist or lawyer job. Whether it is pot dispensaries, or vintage clothing shops, or used book and record stores, or restaurants with patio seating, DC over regulation is going to shut them down.

    Then DC voters who not have a high school education will all be dependent on the Mayor's summer jobs program for what little employment they can find. Is that The Plan?

  39. Frank Lee Mahdear
    #39

    If there's one thing that all of DC can agree on, from Western Avenue to Southern Avenue, from the top floor of the Cairo to the English basement in Eckington, from nth-generation native Washingtonian to the freshly-minted Swarthmore BA who just finished unpacking, it's that Bruce Majors can suck our balls.

  40. #40

    @NE John: Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock...........

  41. #41

    You and Frank Lee Mahdear tell em, Noodlez. I ain't messin' witcha cause ya'll aint never lied. Also, did you remember to tell New DC how many of the US citizens that make up the majority are on drugs and welfare??????
    Especially that meth shit.

  42. #42

    Time keeps on slipin slipin slipin

  43. #43

    Sun's gonna set on your crazy ass, noodlez, have a good night! Seriously, busting people selling zags makes him a strong mayor and you think that steel's a fine product for the local highly unemployed community? Stop being all knee-jerk and listen to yourself, son

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Blogs Linking to this Article

  1. Mayor Gray Must Understand Our Language Is Our Right -Grassroots DC

    [...] It isn’t the first time a PR move like this has gone wrong for the Mayor. Just this time last year, he brought a small army of city officials with him to Martin Luther King Boulevard in SE to demand that shop-owners stop carrying rolling papers and selling loose cigarettes. In many of the stores, Mr. Gray and the Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Nicholas Majett also encountered language barriers. Then too, the City Paper’s Alan Suderman picked up on the Mayor’s disregard of language access laws: [...]

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