WASHINGTON, DC -- Two years ago, DC made the move to legalize marijuana for recreational use, but the law has left a gray area making way for a booming underground industry for marijuana vendors, and not everyone is happy about it.
In his Columbia Heights, Armando is hard at work in his kitchen baking his signature snickers-topped cheesecake for a local competition with one key ingredient, marijuana infused coconut oil.
“For every cup of coconut oil, there’s about 2,000 milligrams of THC in it.”, he explains as he fills up a muffin pan of with sample sized cheesecake.
Armando and his operation, Everybody Bakes, is part of a booming network of vendors who have found a way to profit off of the loopholes of DC’s Initiative 71, which says no money, goods, or services can be exchanged for marijuana.
“So, we get donations to Everybody Bakes and a lot of times we’ll provide free cannabis.”, says Armando.
And there’s a huge network of vendors in DC.
According to Armando, many host pop-up events throughout the city where you pay an entrance fee at the door.
“Vendors will be in there and everybody’s got their tables and their set up and you have weed and extracts, and distracts and everything like that, and edibles, as well and all types of paraphernalia that’s associated with marijuana. And, you know, nothing’s for sale but you’re definitely going to leave out with something in your hand If you want to… it’s just all in how you maneuver around initiative 71.”, he says.
During our interview, Armando made a delivery to a loyal donor, Gladys.
“I got an eighth of Purple Kush.”, she told me as she reached into the small white paper bag that Armando handed her.
When I asked how she found out about Everybody Bakes, she said, “I used the service LeafedIn and when I moved to DC, I knew about the cannabis laws here and so I kind of just looked around to find something online.”
LeafedIn is a phone app which tells you everything from where to find marijuana vendors, to consumers, to workers, and where to score the gift of ‘free’ green.
Many vendors like Armando’s, operate as a delivery service.
They get the notification from LeafedIn on their phones and then show up, weed-in-hand.
However, just because recreational marijuana in the District is becoming more and commonplace, the debate over its legal status is still ongoing.
“It’s worrisome to me the impact that it will have on society as a whole.”, said one woman who lives in Northern Virginia.
And, a man passing by gave his thoughts, saying, “I think I’d be more worried about somebody walking around drunk then high to be completely honest. I’ve never met a violent high person, but I’ve met a lot of very mean drunk people.”
According to Initiative 71, anyone over 21 can have up to two ounces of marijuana which can be consumed on private property.
You’re also allowed up to six plants in your home, as long as only three are mature.
Even though the measure went into effect two years ago, there still remains some pushback.
“The biggest problem that we see with legalization is an industry that profits off of addiction.”, says Will Jones, who spearheaded a campaign against marijuana legalization in 2014, and now works with Smart Approaches to Marijuana or SAM.
He says, while he’s all for the decriminalization of the drug, he says full legalization has opened up Pandora’s box and gets away from the main purpose behind the change in DC’s marijuana laws.
“In my opinion, this is not really about social justice. This isn’t really about removing criminal penalties and DC’s a perfect example of that, because before legalization was passed in 2015, we had already decriminalized, so you weren’t going to go to jail for smoking a joint. We had already decriminalized and then there’s a push for legalization which was kind of an intermediate stop between decriminalization and full commercialization.”, says Jones.
SAM’s main worry is that full commercialization of marijuana will welcome an industry that Jones says pushes an addictive substance to vulnerable communities.
While none of the vendors on LeafedIn are openly advertising for now, Armando feels that his involvement is helping those who want to use marijuana, do it safely,as well as giving people suffering from different ailments, a way to ease their pain without prescription pain killers.
He says, “The point is to bring awareness to cannabis, to marijuana[...] And, we always have these stereotypical views of people who use marijuana, but a lot of times it’s attorneys, judges[...] So, it’s not necessarily this whole boogie man smoking a joint in the corner type of thing.”