As of February 26 in Washington, D.C., the following are legal for individuals: possessing up to two ounces of marijuana; growing up to six marijuana plants in a principal residence; and smoking marijuana in private residences. See DC’s Last Day of Marijuana Illegality – Sort Of. But people wishing to engage in any of these recently legalized District activities first must obtain marijuana or the seeds to grow the marijuana, and many questioned how this could be legally accomplished.
Last week, D.C.’s Cannabis Campaign offered a solution: it organized two marijuana seed give-aways. The first seed give-away took place last Thursday at the appropriately named bar/restaurant Libertine located in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. The second give-away occurred on Saturday afternoon at the cannabis campaign’s headquarters located among foreign embassies on Massachusetts Avenue just west of Dupont Circle.
I wanted to witness first-hand the marijuana seed give-away. Around 6:30 PM Saturday I arrived at the cannabis campaign headquarters. I was immediately impressed with how many people were orderly lined up on the sidewalk in thirty-degree weather to obtain the free marijuana seeds. The line of people waiting for the marijuana seeds extended well past four long city blocks.
Equally as impressive as the number of people waiting in line to receive seeds was the number of police officers I saw monitoring the line: zero. The seed give-aways were not secret; they were publicized in Washington Post stories and on various websites. The absence of a police presence seemed an important validation that, notwithstanding U.S. Congressional assertions to the contrary, there is no debate in Washington, D.C. that Initiative 71 is indeed the law.
And then there were the marijuana seeds themselves – clearly visible in plastic bags held by new owners that had just obtained them legally under D.C.’s new laws. Though we can discuss marijuana legalization and implementation, nothing brings home the reality of a new law and a new way of life for many people than actually seeing individuals carrying a product that just a couple of months earlier could have resulted in their arrests.
I casually asked a couple of people near the DC Cannabis Campaign’s headquarters about the seed give-away and their plans for growing marijuana in their private residences. One individual rightfully pointed out that what is old is new again as the District will likely have thousands of new farmers as a result of Initiative 71. And although the marijuana laws that DC implemented under Initiative 71 prohibit selling and buying marijuana, they do not prohibit commerce in products and services related to marijuana cultivation if such cultivation is legal under the laws. I received handouts from several cannabis entrepreneurs and also learned of services that many individuals plan to use in the District for purposes of growing and harvesting their marijuana.
Washington, D.C. will continue to address issues that arise as a result of legalizing marijuana – just as the City Council did earlier in March when it enacted legislation prohibited marijuana use in private clubs. Clarifying the law’s intent is what governments must do when they enact new laws. But notwithstanding such issues and the conflicts that have and are likely to continue to arise concerning marijuana’s legalization, voters for Initiative 71 should reflect on the real changes their votes have brought about in the District. I saw the seeds of such change with my own eyes.