How to Understand DC: An Interview with Adam Eidinger
Perhaps that should be understood as a forward-looking statement because, as most high intent users realize, the current cannabis scene in DC is plenty strange. Eidinger suggested a link between suffering and liberation. That’s a little heavy, though, for a guy sporting what looks like a red Smurf hat.
A Brief Review
With the passage of Initiative 71, as implementation has subsequently been limited by Congress, it is legal in DC to:
- have up to two ounces,
- grow up to six plants,
- give it to your friends, and
- consume it in a private residence where the owner permits.
- doing any of the above on federal land, which is roughly a third of the city and not always clearly demarcated;
- ditto if you are a federal employee, partnered or otherwise living with someone who is;
- selling it;
- buying it;
- consuming it in a private residence, where the owner does not permit (think public housing or many rental units);
- consuming it in a public venue, like a club or hotel; or
- smoking outdoors.
However, if you think the Capital Heights metro station smells like weed, you’re not mistaken. Law enforcement is relaxed except when it isn’t, as Kush Gods recently learned. It’s hard to predict.
Whatever else may be said, DC cannabis culture retains much of its shaggy pre-legalization feel, a little uneasy and far from the buttoned-up corporate culture developing elsewhere.
Enter Adam Eidinger
Eidinger is a long-time cannabis activist in DC. He chaired the DC Cannabis Campaign and spearheaded efforts to collect the signatures needed to place Initiative 71 on the ballot.
Capitol Hemp, a head shop he owned and operated with partner, Alan Amsterdam, was raided and shut down in 2012, but reopened in 2015 after passage of Initiative 71. As before, customers may buy paraphernalia, glass and memorabilia of the campaign, but no actual marijuana. The store describes itself as a “cannabis free speech zone,” and reportedly has something of the comfortable atmosphere of a cannabarbershop.
Much of Eidinger’s activism now takes place within the context of DCMJ.org. DCMJ supports a move by the DC Council to study, rather than permanently ban, cannabis clubs as well as a drive to unseat Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), who has played a pivotal role in blocking cannabis commerce in the city.
Eidinger recently sat down with TTT to talk about cannabis in the nation’s capital.
Do you worry about the corporatization of weed?
I’m a little concerned about corporate greed but I more strongly feel there is a false nostalgia about the underground economy being a good thing. There is nothing about the underground economy that I am nostalgic for — people living in fear, living in paranoia, people who are growing and don’t pay taxes and their fair share to society, people who are polluting our environment because they are trying to hide their marijuana crop. Lost civil rights aren’t good either. There is something better than 700,000 arrests per year for marijuana, and its legalization.
And I’m not nostalgic for high prices. The price will come down a lot and this home-based industry will go away. It will only be profitable for those who can grow efficiently and at a high quality. I think we’re doing it pretty efficiently already.
There is an idea that businesses will dry up and go away, especially in Northern California. I think that what will happen in that market is that it will be sold as a specialty product. Emerald Valley brands will be recognized in the same way that French champagne is recognized.
What else do you see for the future?
Growing cannabis on expensive urban real estate will also go out of fashion. Growing in rural areas will come into fashion. The natural allies for cannabis farmers in the future will not be big city urban legislators. In the long run, it may be more strongly defended by Republicans because they represent rural areas.
I think we’ll see a long-term decline usage when it’s legal. Usage is growing now because of the novelty. Even in Colorado, where it looks like consumption is up, I think a lot of that is diversion, where people are buying it and taking it out of the state. On the diversion issue we have some really interesting things coming up in the Supreme Court. It will be interesting to see where the federal government comes down. I just don’t think the trajectory is to shut down marijuana all across America and re-criminalize everything.
What does a liberated city look like?
In a liberated city, people could talk about cannabis freely and use cannabis without fear that they’re going to get in trouble. There would be a culture of do-it-yourself. If you want cannabis, go ahead and grow it. People would not be afraid of police officers. If someone comes and steals your cannabis, you could report it as a theft. You could go to trial and defend your rights. Suddenly cannabis users will have a whole lot of rights they didn’t have before.
How can people from DC and farther away participate?
We are organizing a protest on Saturday, April 2 at 2:00 pm at Lafayette Park across from the White House to urge the president to take action on re-scheduling or de-scheduling marijuana. We’ve re-scheduled 4/20 because Obama has been a big fat zero on re-scheduling. We’re having a campaign school with hotel rooms for those from out of town on the Friday before the White House protest, with details to follow on the DCMJ website.
And so, what about the hat?
It’s a Phyrigian cap, but in the United States, it’s been known as the “liberty cap.” This particular cap would sit on top of a liberty pole, under which George Washington and the Continental army organized the new government. It’s an ancient symbol, which has everything to do with the founding of the United States.
We’re bringing it back as a symbol of political freedom. When you have elections and the results are ignored and some other power overrides the will of the people [as Congress did in its restriction on the implementation of Initiative 71], it’s time to dust off these hats. It’s time to use these hats again because we’re no better than the people living under the tyranny of King George and the British Parliament.
DC is a Place like No Other
DC, the city that exists beyond the federal offices and grand monuments, is not the Washington, D.C. of school field trips. Marked by stark economic contrasts and heavily African-American, it was the original “chocolate city,” long before Mayor Ray Nagin used the term for post-Katrina New Orleans.
Policy conversations turn quickly to the city’s lack of political autonomy with the suggestion that racism is at the root. The social justice aspect of cannabis activism is particularly noticeable in DC. That is the first thing to understand.
The second thing, however, is that the cannabis conversation seems to have taken on a faintly visionary quality. For activists like Adam Eidinger, the liberated city is visible and nearly within reach.
For visitors, though, the rules are still strange and legal enforcement a little unpredictable, much as in pre-legalization days. The best advice for the high intent user in DC may be like the best advice for anyone dealing with the other, federal,Washington, DC. It is still a good place to have a friend.
Photo Credit: CBS News