The National Cannabis Festival at the RFK Stadium grounds Saturday afternoon seemingly offered so much: rolling papers of all sizes; neon-pink bongs; “Hydroponics for Everybody” books; free issues of Dope magazine; several odor-protecting clutches from the Annabis purse collection; and an “Educational Pavilion” for yoga techniques or lessons on entrepreneurship and local “Potlitics.”
One thing at the National Cannabis Festival not technically allowed: the consumption or sale of cannabis. Although it’s been legal since Feb. 26, 2015, for people in the District to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, it’s still illegal for ordinary citizens to sell it to one another or smoke it in a public place.
But just in case festival-goers were disappointed by the D.C. rules, luckily there was Stephen Barber, 25, a University of Maryland journalism student and editor of a cannabis news site, Capital Canna News. Sitting out in the open by the vendor booths, Barber was — to use the language of his rationale — accepting “donations” for his fledgling news organization in exchange for one-gram baggies of marijuana that he branded “White House O.G.”
“This is some good [expletive] marijuana,” said Barber, a U-Md. senior as he took a hit and coughed uncontrollably. Then, people shoved their hands in his face with wadded-up $20 bills, asking “You selling?” and “How much for the donation?”
“You can go on Kickstarter,” Barber replied, referring to the money-raising website. He rummaged through his backpack and fetched more baggies.
There was much more than pot to be found at the festival. More than 3,000 people came to educate themselves about the disparate marijuana laws in the District and various states. Pot entrepreneurs tried to find new consumers, and wellness educators preached about marijuana’s health effects.
Bill English, 36, a wellness coach, began the festival’s yoga class inside the Educational Pavilion by talking up marijuana’s health effects: “Beyond just being additive medically . . . it can have us be more creative and it can help us with our mind body connection. There’s a variety of things this plant can do beyond just getting people high.”
“Whoo!” someone yelled.
“That’s right,” English said.
And just in case attendees wanted to obtain an actual medical marijuana card — which confers a prescription and legal avenue to buy the drug in the District — then there was the MetroXMD booth. Its huge poster was meant to entice: “Who can get their medical marijuana card? ANY one, with ANY medical condition, from ANY state in the United States. We can legally get you prescribed for Medical Cannabis today!”
Over by one of the political booths was Riley Rae, a co-founder of the group DC NORML, a local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Rae was talking with a man from Delaware who belongs to his local NORML chapter.
“You hear about the Pennsylvania medical marijuana law? You can’t smoke it,” said the Delaware man, who would only be identified by his first name, Brian.
“That’s silly,” Rae said.
“It’s just another Catch-22,” Brian said. “We can possess it in D.C., but we can’t sell it?”
One of the festival’s most popular booths was the one hawking cases of Raw rolling papers. When it was the next person’s turn at the booth, the participant got a chance to spin a roulette-style wheel a la “Wheel of Fortune” for one dollar. People turned the wheel with all sorts of possibilities of where it would land: Tips, Stickers, Clipper, Cone, and King Size.
After one woman got done spinning, she was awarded an enormous packet of rolling papers. She marveled at the size.
“Isn’t that amazing,” she said. She was holding in her hands Raw’s 12-inch rolling paper that would normally retail for more than a dollar.
What brought her to the National Cannabis Festival?
She looked at her friend. They shrugged their shoulders and snickered, declining to be identified.
“Activism,” the friend said.