City Paper is not for tourists
Almost three years after it closed as part of a non-prosecution deal with District officials, Adams Morgan establishment Capitol Hemp reopened Monday at 1770 Columbia Road NW. Items for sale include industrial hemp products like clothing, soaps, seeds, and paper prints as well as various smoking devices like glass bongs, pipes, and vaporizers.
The biggest change, says co-owner Adam Eidinger, is that patrons can now buy products that are explicitly designed for the consumption, processing, and cultivation of cannabis. Before weed was legalized in D.C. (in large part, thanks to Eidinger’s efforts), customers of Capitol Hemp could not openly talk about their intent to use products to smoke pot: The store had a zero-tolerance policy for this in accordance with laws that decreed that vendors could not knowingly sell bongs to weed-users.
“We’re totally ecstatic that this environment is so much more free and open [than it was before legal cannabis],” says Eidinger. “At the same time, we’re paying taxes to the D.C. government.”
Capitol Hemp closed in September 2012, after police raided the store and its second location in Chinatown the previous October for drug paraphernalia and pot possession. Police made seven arrests in the process, finding evidence of THC (the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana) on scene. Eidinger and his business partner Alan Amsterdam, who remains a co-owner, took a deal in which they closed Capitol Hemp in order not to be prosecuted and get back seized goods.
Between then and now, Eidinger led the District’s Initiative 71 campaign, which ultimately made legal the possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana, the home cultivation of up to six pot plants, and the use or sale of cannabis-related drug paraphernalia. (N.B.: Selling weed for recreational purposes in D.C. is illegal, as are public consumption of pot and driving while high.) Many saw the debate over legal weed as part of the larger question of D.C.’s local autonomy, as Congress could have blocked the law. With a Republican-controlled House in power, legal-marijuana advocates were relieved to win. (At the moment, Eidinger’s fighting a charge stemming from what he says was an unlawful arrest at a House Oversight committee hearing on a move to block another D.C. law.)
Eidinger considers the discussion about D.C. statehood as inextricably linked with his business.
“What the marijuana issue has come to represent is a really intelligent conversation about democracy,” says Eidinger. “People come in to talk about politics, medical marijuana in our store.”
Eidinger adds that Capitol Hemp will now be part of a bigger cultural movement surrounding legal weed, in which cannabis “connoisseurs” and “diehard collectors” can freely discuss how they grow and use their own plants. He also cites the health benefits marijuana can bring, such as improved relaxation and peace of mind. “We’ll live longer, do better at work,” Eidinger explains.
The reopened store will feature new vaping products, “vintage” Capitol Hemp merchandise, literature about growing cannabis, and even hemp food, including pretzels.
“The pretzels are one of a kind. People who love pretzels should just come in for the pretzels.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery