At the newly opened Capitol Hemp shop in Adams Morgan, $50 can buy a small pipe, a bag of hemp pretzels and some 24-karat-gold rolling paper. Or, you could blow the whole amount on a Bud Bug.
“This is by far the weirdest thing we sell at the store,” Capitol Hemp’s co-owner Adam Eidinger said as he pulled a box down from a shelf. Inside was a colorful, oversize mechanical insect that grinds clumps of marijuana as it scoots across the floor, leaving a trail of finely ground cannabis in its path.
“As I said, we sell hard-to-find pieces,” Eidinger quipped.
Monday marked the first day that Capitol Hemp was open for business in D.C.’s era of legalized marijuana. The official grand opening is Wednesday, featuring free hemp ice cream for customers.
Although it is still against the law to sell marijuana in the District, possession of the substance is now legal. And that means that at Capitol Hemp and other so-called head shops in the District, customers and employees can explicitly talk about marijuana, without using code words or pretending that the smoking-related products will be used for some other substance.
Eidinger and his partner, Alan Amsterdam, first opened Capitol Hemp in 2008, a block away from its new location in the 1700 block of Columbia Road NW.
In 2012, D.C. police raided the old shop and its Chinatown outpost, arresting six employees for violating drug paraphernalia laws and seizing $350,000 worth of glassware. Officials also found evidence of THC — the active chemical in marijuana — on the premises, though Eidinger says the traces of THC were the result of two people breaking the store’s drug policy.
Eidinger and Amsterdam agreed to close the shops in exchange for getting their merchandise back and avoiding prosecution.
The experience, Eidinger says, is what spurred him to launch a seemingly quixotic fight to legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital.
He chaired the DC Cannabis Campaign and spearheaded efforts to collect the signatures needed to place Initiative 71 on last November’s ballot. An overwhelming number of D.C. residents voted in favor.
Despite some congressional attempts to block the law, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana became legal in the District in February. City residents may also grow a maximum of six plants in their homes.
But because selling marijuana is still prohibited, Capitol Hemp cannot offer any actual marijuana products. Nor can anyone light up in the store — not even to test out a new, pricey bong.
Still, there are bongs in the display case, and store personnel can explain to customers in specific terms how to use their more complicated products.
“It’s crazy to hear this conversation,” employee Max Manes said Monday evening, as Eidinger described the intricacies of smoking extracted marijuana concentrates through a glass contraption called an oil rig.
In some ways, the store is an ode to the political fight that allowed Eidinger and Amsterdam to reopen Capitol Hemp.
The entrance features a large D.C. flag that says “No Taxation Without Representation,” on sale for $19.99. There are sketches and posters for sale that were used to promote the Initiative 71 campaign.
And for $100, there’s even a sketch of Eidinger behind bars, along with the hashtags FREEDC and FREEADAM. (Eidinger was arrested during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in April for refusing to leave the hearing after a disturbance in which, he says, he played no part.)
Isaac Ellowitz, director of cultivation at one of the city’s medical marijuana growing facilities, stopped by Monday night to purchase some memorabilia.
“It’s a historic day,” Ellowitz said. “The people that are opening this back up are the reason why marijuana is legal.”