What's Stopping Washington, D.C. From Being a Kush Kingdom?
When we think of the Kingdom of Kush, our minds may jump to Colorado or Washington. The historians among us may even jump to the literal Kingdom of Kush—an ancient African Nubian kingdom in the BC era. But what if there’s a secret city in the heart of America that could be poised to become the heir to the kingdom? That place is Washington, D.C., and when they legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in November 2014, they looked ready to blaze up and turn the nation’s capital into the new stoner utopia.
If you really think about it, it’s a logical place for marijuana legalization (while sinking into your couch). I mean, the Washington Memorial looks like an erect joint ready to be lit up and passed around. The White House looks ready for a new green-hued paint job. Yet, in the aftermath of the passage of the law, DC hasn’t become the marijuana wonderland we imagined. We weren’t expecting a HUF-approved marijuana leaf-emblazoned American flag, but we did hope the city would lovingly embrace legalization, like the time you hugged your five-foot-tall bong after a long day. Instead, we’ve seen exactly what happens when weed is legalized in a city where the United States government goes to work every day.
When Initiative 71 passed in DC, the city joined states like Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington in legalizing possession and growth of marijuana. The city specifically allows people to have possession of up to two ounces of weed, “transfer” up to one ounce to another person, and cultivate up to six plants. Here’s where it gets weird, though. It’s illegal to sell marijuana to anyone, and it’s illegal to smoke, eat, or drink marijuana in public—including in vehicles. If that doesn’t sound very chill and has you slowly scratching your head and staring at the screen with bloodshot eyes, welcome to the confusing world of DC’s marijuana law.
A month after the November 2014 law was passed and two months before it was set to go into effect, a tightass group of Republicans in Congress found a way to nip it in the bud. Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland had no chill when he and other anti-marijuana lawmakers stuck language into a spending bill that needed to pass to avoid a government shutdown. The result? The the city is not allowed to use any funds to regulate legalized weed and if you are on federal land, which constitutes one third of the city, you can still be arrested for possessing it.
The embargo on creating a new Kingdom of Kush in DC was ironic–not just because marijuana legalization was approved by 70 percent of D.C. voters when it passed, but also because Republicans are constantly complaining about government interference in local and state governments. Harris admitted to having never blazed up and cited a rise in teen drug use and threw in the “gateway drug” argument for good measure, but the real reason he went hard against legalization is the same reason most politicians make any decisions these days: money.
His biggest campaign contribution—an astounding $319,415—came from health professionals. One of his biggest donors? The pharmaceutical company Emergent BioSolutions from his home state of Maryland. They create a product that fights pain associated with cancer and chemotherapy, which is exactly what marijuana has been proven to do. Weed is also proven to be safer than painkillers in terms of overdoses because, try as you might, it’s impossible to overdose on marijuana. Painkiller overdoses, meanwhile, are a national epidemic.
With the status of legal weed in a strange legislative purgatory thanks to a lawmaker with deep pockets, where does that leave the city’s weed-loving residents? Carrying a 50-foot inflatable joint to the White House or ordering a pressed juice with a side of marijuana, apparently. The dream doobie was carried as part of a mass protest in DC by an organization called DCMJ, which called for President Obama to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I controlled substances that include heroin, LSD and other hard drugs. The event ended in a mass smokeout that didn’t lead to any arrests, but did technically break the law, since it’s still illegal to smoke in public in DC.
As for the juice, it comes from a handful of business that are attempting to sell marijuana without explicitly selling marijuana. You know, since that’s illegal. Kush Gods, a staple of the DC weed scene, and HighSpeed, a cold-press juice business, both flirt with legality by selling products and then giving away weed as a “donation.” This has led to legal trouble for Kush Gods and $55 bottles of juice that come with a free side of weed at HighSpeed, which is about the price of a weed-free juice in Chelsea on a good day.
There doesn’t seem to be any hope for a residents of DC who want to blaze up and sell openly in the near future, but the legislative red tape could burn out as the country changes its tone this November. Over twenty states, including Nevada, California, Utah, Idaho, and Mississippi, have measures up for public vote to legalize marijuana, and 58 percent of Americans support legalization. Washington DC may be stuck in a legalization limbo but, by next year, let’s hope the kush kingdom overtakes the White House’s backyard. The Washington monument ain’t gonna smoke itself.
Stay tuned to Milk for more marijuana news.
Original imagery via Kathryn Chadason. Images via The Washington Post, Salon, Huffington Post, and AP Photo