Monday, March 30, 2015

Washington Social Diary: Through a Puff, Lightly

Adam Eidinger takes a puff of legal marijuana and sips a legal glass of wine at The Q&A Cafe.
by Carol Joynt

Washington’s gardens, at least among the clued in, are about to get greener. Along with the blooming tulips, rhododendron and peonies there will be some significant seedlings inching up through the soil: marijuana. Legal marijuana. Now, technically, the plants must be grown inside, but almost anyone who is sophisticated about legalization expects that the Metropolitan Police Department will not arrest a resident who has a pot plant in a pot on the back porch. If I’m wrong, throw me under the bus.

DC residents are allowed to have six mature plants under the new law that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in November. The new enthusiasm for urban farming was particularly apparent last week at a couple of public marijuana “seed sharing” events where thousands of adults, representing all generations, lined up for free seeds and, in some instances, instructions on how to grow them.  
Lined up for seed sharing.
So, is the party on? Are we lighting up and liking it?  Well, not so fast Alice B. Toklas. Washington being Washington, it’s a little push-pull. The law doesn’t allow the sale or purchase of marijuana, only possession. Though if you have a medical marijuana card, you may buy buds, leaves, edibles and paraphernalia at the city’s dispensaries. The new measure is expected to reduce arrests, which historically have shown a stunning disparity between blacks and whites, with blacks many times more likely to be busted for possession. Still, according to available data, support for legalization was strongest in the wealthier neighborhoods and less enthusiastic in the poorer sections of the city.

There’s no risk of the nation’s capital becoming Amsterdam or Aspen, because the residents like having it both ways: to vote liberal and appear cool but to live with a conservative, suburban “hush-hush.” Even though it's legal, it has a vibe of taboo. There has been one story after another in which residents are quoted as being private users, but for the record will not reveal any more than a first name and most likely a fake first name at that.  
One of the few legal medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington. Patrons need a doctor-issued card to shop there.
Rules of a medical marijuana dispensary.
Marijuana seeds.
Baby marijuana plants.
Plants growing toward maturity.
Harvested buds.
The city wasn’t always this luddite. For better or worse, it followed most of the prevailing social trends of the last few decades. In the '70s, weed was out and about, a hostess might serve nicely rolled joints along with the cigarettes; in the '80s there were parties with silver trays or bowls of cocaine, mirrors lined with lines, while in the '90s the focus turned to condoms as everybody got safe and started to work out as the new drug of choice. Though a condom was never handed to me as a party favor, a condom boutique opened at the main commercial corner of Georgetown.

Now that DC residents can legally own and grow marijuana will they go forward and embrace this freedom with some calm, even cool? The juncture was illustrated when DC marijuana activist Adam Eidinger appeared for an interview with me on The Q&A Café, which is taped at The George Town Club, once a hub of the ancients that is quietly but decidedly starting to hook up with younger, modern times. (Membership numbers are climbing). While we were on the air, Adam offered me a smoke, and a nicely rolled one at that. I turned him down because while it may be legal to possess weed it is not legal to smoke anything in a public place. And, also, I don’t smoke.
Eidinger told the story of turning a raid on his head shop into a movement for marijuana legalization.
Adam and CJ talk marijuana with a backdrop of legal booze.
After the interview was done and the TV cameras were off, Adam lit up the joint. Almost immediately, after maybe a puff or two, the manager politely but quickly told him to extinguish it and he did. It was a little moment, the air barely got infused with the familiar scent, but still it got reported in The Washington Post.  Ironically, as Adam took his wee puff, he stood at a bar stocked with all the major brands of booze, and he also sipped a glass of red wine. The transition from taboo marijuana to accepted marijuana reminds some of the era not so long ago when a person in DC could get arrested for drinking at a bar while standing up, and when all alcohol was removed from tables at midnight on a Saturday night, or else.
After the interview was done and the TV cameras were off, Adam lit up the joint. After a few puffs, he was asked to put it out and did.
Perhaps the next restaurant money-maker, in the model of cigar bars, will be to have private rooms where patrons can  comfortably light up a pipe, a vaporizer or a joint. The other way to go is with edibles, where there’s no breaking of smoking laws. If you are a smoker, whether at a home or private club, the best policy is to ask before lighting up.

Eidinger has a fascinating political story to tell, a very American story, too. Not so long ago, 2012, he owned two head shops in DC, where he sold pipes, books, hemp clothing. The police raided his stores, arrested him, his partner and his employees, and the stores closed.  He explains the details in the interview:
Rather than retreat into a giant pity party, Adam turned that event into a movement. He started working for marijuana legalization, which became Initiative 71, and that's what voters approved last fall. It was enacted only weeks ago by Mayor Muriel Bowser, who stood up to House Republicans who threatened to throw her in jail. btw, she appeared on The Q&A Café just after, and that interview, too, is worth a watch/listen:
Between them there’s good political muscle being shown here and DC should be proud of itself – regardless of whether one does or does not use marijuana. Even Eidinger, in our interview, said the lens through which to view Initiative 71 is that this is a template the city could use to achieve statehood.  Maybe he’ll run for mayor, someday.

Adam makes a lot of interesting points in the hour program. One that stood out is the business potential of legal marijuana, because if you track the financial news you know the lusty private investor types are kicking the tires of legal weed, trying to see where the boom opportunities might be.  Adam says one early obvious path is to start a professional home growhouse business. In other words, the gardening service that comes into a private home, finds the right spot, builds the personal growhouse and manages the seeds so they do, in fact, grow into healthy, high quality plants in the strains the user may desire.
Marijuana edibles, drinks and infusions. Important to read the dose (just as you would check for alcohol content).
The strains desired? What does that mean? It means that when the growing of marijuana is legal and controlled, and responsible, plants can openly be cultivated to suit individual needs and levels of tolerance, eliminating “mystery weed,” which is usually inferior or just plain bad. An add-on for the landscaper and gardener, perhaps? The home growhouse could be the new private media room.

I’ve spent time with Cory Barnett, who owns District Growers, a cultivation center that grows legal medical marijuana in DC. He was also featured in a story by MSNBC on the new “pot barons.” He consults nationwide. It was fascinating to hear Cory talk about how he buys seeds, propagates hybrids and can create strains that don’t cause a zombie buzz, or paranoia, “product” a patient can consume and still drive to work, and that can be aimed at specific needs such as pain management and other disease-related issues. His message is “responsibility.”
Advocates of legal marijuana want you to see it as an organic, farmed method of treating what ails you – from serious medical conditions to the hassles of daily living. Also, fun and relaxing. For example, if you like to sip a martini to change gears or you pop a pill to face the music, you may be pleased with the result of trying regulated marijuana in the suitable strain.

To see legal marijuana managed at the most sophisticated level – and perhaps you’ve already stopped in there – I would say look to Silverpeak Apothecary ( in Aspen. It is a “luxury” marijuana boutique and a business model. They hand out a smart little orange “Guide to Responsible Cannabis Consumption.” In it there are essential points on how to buy and how to consume and how to not over-consume. There’s even a graphic scale of “cannabis affect.” It ends with the admonition, “don’t over serve yourself.”  And, I would add, don’t leave “edibles” around, such as candies or cookies, in the reach of children.
Inside Silverpeak Apothecary in Aspen.
Marijuana is not for everyone, just as alcohol is not for everyone, and with both there’s use and abuse. But decriminalization and legalization are happening nationwide, a trend that will likely evolve into normalcy. Take off the blinders. Better to learn about it than to freak out about it. Maybe ask a friend about it who benefits from it medically.

After he extinguished his joint, Adam Eidinger hung out and talked with the audience. He surprised some when he said he would not let his young daughter use pot. He was asked to name the person with whom he’d most like to share a joint. He didn’t hesitate. “President Obama,” he said. “He’s a cool dude.” Yes, President Obama is a cool dude and he would be cool to kick back with, though fair to say this is an opportunity he’ll avoid, especially given the inane harassment he and his family have to endure as it is.  

But, hey, maybe Cory Barnett can create a strain called “Capitol GOP” that’s designed to quell idiocy and prompts responsible behavior in certain members of the House and Senate. I’d puff to that.

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt