It’s probably appropriate that the future of D.C.’s marijuana business kicked it off in a hidden-away hotel downtown that’s connected to a federal building. This weekend at the Comfy Tree Cannabis Convention, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts piled in a Holiday Inn near L’Enfant Plaza to hear talks about how to best start your pot business and how to become a decent home grower.
And even though the surroundings were relatively meager, it’s amazing to think about how we got to this point in the District. Back in 2012, then-Mayor Vincent Gray decided to start cracking down on drug paraphernalia sales around the city, claiming that it was aiding drug use by minors. Combined with that was the effort to remove synthetic drugs from the streets, along with an overall public health advertising campaign.
Yet, if Gray didn’t make those busts a priority, we probably wouldn’t be where we are today.
In 2012, after various impromptu drop-bys on unsuspecting businesses, Capitol Hemp was busted and shut down. Owners Adam Eidinger and Alan Amsterdam decided to fight back. It sounds so simple, but Initiative 71 was effectively one of the best political returns of serve in the city’s local history.
You don’t want me to run my shop? Sure, let’s just make this whole shebang legal, then. And it worked. Amsterdam, who’s been running his shop The Noon just across the border in Silver Spring, knows he’s a direct footnote to history, but doesn’t necessarily brag about it, much.
“I’d say that’s a factual statement,” Amsterdam, 47, said Saturday, while quietly grinning and selling wares at the event’s expo. He’s got his vaporizer pen i-Phone attachment, but he’s not smoking, since we’re in public. “We decided change the way D.C. does business with the industry. And slowly we chipped away at it, people laughed at us in the beginning. I had a friend texted me and his text said, ‘Those who laugh last, laugh loudest.'”
You can say that the city finally came to their senses, years after a 1998 referendum in which the will of the people for medicinal marijuana was stated, but if that raid in Adams Morgan doesn’t happen, the city is probably not sparking up alone at home legally, today.
Corey Barnette, who owns and runs District Growers, a cultivation center in Northeast, thinks that no matter how it happened, it was about time. As the most prominent local growing guru, he ran a discussion earlier in the day. Afterward, he talked about how he got there.
“I think that the way that we’ve gotten here, you’ve had a group of people: drug policy alliance, the business community, interested constituents across the city, that have decided to look at data. And that data told us some pretty alarming things,” he said, referring to the arrest rates of blacks versus whites in the city. “I think it’s been a long sort of tumultuous journey, but it’s one that we’ve gotten to for the right reasons. And if we had to take this slow walk in order to get there, I’m more happy and elated at the fact that we’ve gotten here for the right reasons than we got here for speedy or expeditious reasons.”
Over the course of the day, seeing the type of people at the event became half the fun. There’s no stereotype for the D.C. area stoner. And if you think you’ve nailed one, there’s probably another whom you’ve never suspect, necessarily.
Such was the case for one family attending from Fairfax County. Two parents and their daughter — they didn’t want to be identified because of “annoying friends,” who may create a problem. But they talked openly about their family’s habit and why they smoke with their teenage daughter.
“We all like to get high together,” the mom, 53, said. “It was kind of a known big elephant in the room that nobody talked about until she was 18. And then all of a sudden it was like, hey, I know you get high. We get high, let’s get high together kind of thing.”
With marijuana so available to her kids (she has a 14-year-old at home, whom they do not smoke with), the stigma around usage is long gone. It’s just something they do. When the 19-year-old is home, after dinner, out comes the bong.
“We treat this like an after-dinner drink when we all have dinner,” the father, 54, said. “Less smoke in the room [with a bong]. If we light up a joint, we’ve got to be kind of careful about it. Then we go and enjoy the evening.”
A little more than two years ago, cornerstore owners were getting hassled by the mayor, and now the new mayor is on national television telling Congress to leave our city alone when it comes to smoking weed.
“I thought I would see this day, but it’d be on my death bed, not when I was young enough to enjoy it,’ Amsterdam said Saturday. “Yes, it’s incredible.”