Rolling papers no longer sold in government building

Last week, city officials cut the ribbon on a new cafe and sundry store in the new D.C. government building in Ward 7, next to the Minnesota Avenue Metro station. Like many retail facilities on government property, the “Deanwood Cafe” is staffed by blind vendors in keeping with the eight-decade-old mandates of the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act.

While blind vending sites are fairly common in federal government facilities, this is the first one on D.C. government property in more than 20 years. It’s operated by Kenneth Smith — a native Washingtonian, Anacostia High and UDC graduate who’s a veteran in the local blind vending community.

But us journalists can’t help finding the dark side of a feel-good story. Troublemaking Post reporter Paul Schwartzman stopped by the cafe Tuesday and found that among the items on offer — besides the Uno’s pizza and Seattle’s Best coffee — were rolling papers.

On sale at mart inside DC Dept. of Employment Svces HQ in NE: Rolling paper. As in Big Bambu. New productivity initiative?

— paul schwartzman (@paulschwartzman) May 29, 2012

Those would be, more or less, the kind of potential drug paraphernalia that Ward 7’s D.C. Council member, Yvette M. Alexander, has has long railed against. And now in a D.C. government building!

Well, the blunt stops here: An official with the D.C. Department on Disability Services, which oversees the blind vendor program, e-mailed Schwartzman today to note that Smith has pulled the papers from his inventory.

“[T]he Deanwood Cafe will not stock or sell rolling papers,” wrote Deborah Bonsack, the agency’s chief of staff.

If you’re blind, a D.C. resident and have an interest in selling various small items that do not include rolling papers, you can call (202) 442-8434 for information on applying to become a vendor.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.
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