In Politically Charged D.C., Cannabis Is A Cottage Industry

Ron Strider

Well-Known Member
Stuck between Congress and voters' will, residents of this politically charged town are becoming urban gardeners, turning closets and living rooms into tiny cannabis farms while politicians dither over whether it ever will be legal to sell marijuana in the nation’s capital.

They’re also ignoring a ban on sales and illegally buying cannabis from a myriad of delivery services that “sell” $60 cookies that come with a free gift.

“D.C. is so weird,” said Chris Washburn, who owns a marijuana growing supply store. “We look at some of the people around us and wonder, ‘How on Earth are you getting away this this?’ ”

Voters in the District of Columbia legalized marijuana in 2014, abolishing district-level criminal penalties for possession, consumption and growing small amounts. But the Republican-controlled Congress has ultimate control over the district and must agree if its council wants to create any taxes on marijuana sales.

So sales remain banned.

Complicating matters: Marijuana continues to be illegal at the federal level, and the district is patchworked with federal property from the National Mall to the White House. Federal employees and contractors are barred from using marijuana, and some in the large military community are subject to random drug testing.

But for those who choose to consume, homegrown cannabis is an easy way to avoid problems with illegal delivery services.

At Washburn’s Good Hope Hydroponics, customers easily can spend thousands of dollars to equip their home with lights, ventilators and fertilizer to grow up to six plants per adult.

A well-grown cannabis plant can produce upwards of 30 ounces — nearly 2 pounds — of marijuana. On the open market, that marijuana could be worth at least $6,000, and many are tempted to sell it.

A starter system sells for about $400.

“If we can get a good system into the hands of a customer, I’m happy,” Washburn said.

Inside the store, customers line up to buy soil, fertilizer and lighting systems. They also pick the brains of staff members such as Dan Gomes, 24.

He started growing for himself several years ago, dedicating 20 square feet of his 500-square-foot apartment to his plants. Started from either seeds or cuttings, marijuana plants will grow into high-quality cannabis only if they’re given the right combination of lighting, water and fertilizer.

Although the Internet offers plenty of guidance, Gomes said the store’s customers like talking to experts, until they, like him, become proficient.

“For some people, this is a real passion,” he said.

Other states that have legalized marijuana also have created systems allowing regulators to track each plant from seed to sale, levy taxes and force growers and retailers to undergo testing and routine inspections.

That doesn’t happen in the district. Instead, a network of growers and risk-taking delivery drivers sell marijuana to buyers who place orders over the Internet.

In an attempt to stay legal, or at least in a gray area, the delivery services allow customers to pick from a variety of juices and cookies, T-shirts and artwork, all of which cost far more than you would pay in a shop.

And all come with a free gift: Pot, delivered within an hour. The caveat: You don’t get to pick what kind of marijuana as you would in a store.

District of Columbia police consider the entrepreneurship totally illegal.

“Nobody in the history of the world has paid $55 for a bottle of juice because no one would do that,” said Lt. Andrew Struhar of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Narcotics and Special Investigations Division. “And that means at least some of that price is for the marijuana. That’s illegal, no matter how they try to word it.”

Police face a constant balance in how officers spend their time, knowing that voters legalized marijuana possession, he said. Because the district is a federal jurisdiction, the U.S. Attorney’s office, not local prosecutors, prosecute most serious crimes.

“We can’t have 1,000 open marijuana cases,” Struhar said. “Well, we could. But we can’t. We have finite resources. (Delivery services) are just so numerous it’s hard to keep up with it all.”

Back at Good Hope Hydroponics, Washburn said he suspects police will largely ignore the delivery services so they can focus on more serious crimes and harder drugs, such as opiates. While politicians can’t figure out how to proceed, entrepreneurs are rushing to fill the gaps.

“Gray areas are what allow small businesses to succeed, no matter the industry,” Washburn said.


News Moderator: Ron Strider 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: In politically charged D.C., cannabis is a cottage industry
Author: Trevor Hughes
Contact: Contact Us
Photo Credit: Trevor Hughes
Website: USA TODAY: Latest World and US News -
Top Bottom