Pubdate: Mon, 16 Mar 2015
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Post Company
Author: Perry Stein


The weekend after marijuana became legal in the District, Capital 
City Hydroponics ran a sale on the indoor gardening kits needed to 
grow it. Business doubled.

In a narrow Petworth basement stuffed with high-end gardening 
supplies, Michael Bayard gingerly explains that tomatoes are best 
grown indoors given the District's unfavorably dank weather.

Tomatoes, it turns out, are cultivated similarly to marijuana. And 
since his shop, Capital City Hydroponics, opened in 2011, Bayard has 
often explained to customers how to grow the food - tacitly aware 
that some of them just go home and use their new tomato knowledge to grow pot.

But marijuana was legalized in the District on Feb. 26, which means 
Bayard can talk openly to customers about growing the plant all he 
wants. Initiative 71 - the law that D.C. voters overwhelmingly 
approved in November - allows people to possess up to two ounces of 
marijuana and grow a maximum of six plants in their homes (with up to 
three mature at one time).

As a result of intervention by the Republican-controlled Congress, 
selling marijuana is still prohibited in the District, making 
Bayard's niche store uniquely positioned to benefit from the law. And 
Capital City Hydroponics isn't the only business looking to cash in: 
 From marketing firms to security companies, a number of business not 
traditionally associated with marijuana are making a play for a 
now-viable market in Washington.

Referencing Congress's repeated attempts to kill the local 
initiative, Bayard says marijuana won't be mentioned too much in the 
store because he wants to maintain his family-friendly business 
reputation and ensure that marijuana legalization is here to stay.

"Something that is flowering or fruiting, like tomatoes, or something 
else, right? Then you are going to need a flowering stage where the 
fruits and vegetables can mature," Bayard said in his shop one 
afternoon before legalization took effect. "So this is how I talk to 

Still, the weekend after Initiative 71 took effect, Capital City 
Hydroponics ran a sale of the indoor gardening kits needed to grow 
marijuana - the cheapest one started at the gimmick price of $420 - 
and, according to Bayard, business doubled. His neighborhood shop, he 
said, felt like the more bustling Metro Center area downtown than a 
typically sleepy Petworth alleyway.

Countless studies have looked at how much the economy, both locally 
and nationally, could gain if marijuana is legalized and regulated. 
The District's Office of the Chief Financial Officer estimated last 
year that, if the city were to tax the drug, marijuana could balloon 
to a $130 million annual industry here.

But determining how much the city and local businesses could make 
from the current law - which prohibits sales and regulation - is a 
bit more complicated, particularly considering that many would-be 
customers have long been purchasing marijuanarelated paraphernalia, 
albeit typically under the guise that they'd be using the gear for 
something other than marijuana.

"The real type of economic opportunities come directly from selling 
cannabis," says Malik Burnett, the policy manager for the Drug Policy 
Alliance, adding that, for now, the biggest economic benefit for the 
District comes from the reallocation of funds the city would have 
otherwise used to enforce laws and imprison residents for 
marijuana-related crimes.

So cannabis may not directly bring an extra $130 million to city 
coffers just yet, but Adam Eidinger, who spearheaded efforts to put 
Initiative 71 on the ballot, is working to guarantee that it brings 
in at least some new cash. He plans to reopen his Capitol Hemp shop 
in Adams Morgan this year now that marijuana is legal. The D.C. 
government forced him to shutter the shop in 2012, saying the 
merchandise he sold, including pipes and vaporizers, were in 
violation of the city's drug laws. When he reopens Capitol Hemp, 
Eidinger plans to stock the shop with the same type of items.

"If you said you were going to use the pipe for marijuana, we would 
tell you to leave," Eidinger says. "We don't have to play that game anymore."

Island Dyes, a similar type of paraphernalia shop that opened last 
summer in the H Street NE area, is openly advertising on social media 
that it sells marijuana-related items now that it's legal.

"Time for a fattie," an Instagram post reads under a picture of eight 
large, tightly rolled marijuana joints. The post also features the 
hashtag: "It's legal in D.C."

And while that blunt advertising seems directed at a very specific 
audience, it's working: Since marijuana was legalized, store owner 
Glen Schow says business has nearly tripled.

"It's been so busy, I'm exhausted," says Schow.

Businesses poised to benefit from legalization go beyond purveyors of 
high-end bongs and paraphernalia. The weekend after legalization went 
into effect, a cannabis convention came to town, and dozens of 
businesses showcased how they could contribute to the industry. Yes, 
there were shops that sold paraphernalia and schlocky 
marijuana-related apparel. But there were also more unexpected 
businesses, like Abe Garcia and TJ Cichecki's twoman creative 
branding firm, Workhorse.

They've been operating out of a co-working space in Northeast 
Washington for more than a year and work with some nonprofit groups 
in the area. Now, they're trying to add pot businesses to their 
portfolio of clients.

"I've never seen such a low barrier to entry," Cichecki said of the 
pot industry, adding that he wants to help businesses move away from 
the teenage-boy/Bob Marley images associated with pot and move toward 
more sophisticated branding associated with vineyards or beer 
breweries. "This cannabis industry is serious, it's not going away. 
We want to help people craft this new image."

Other businesses can't fully benefit from the marijuana law just yet. 
Jonas Singer, one of the co-founders of Union Kitchen - a local 
incubator focused on fledgling food businesses - knows that marijuana 
and food could be a profitable combination.

If a Union Kitchen member wants to market its food business to hungry 
marijuana users without actually selling the drug, Singer says he'd 
be okay with that. And, if and when it's legal to sell marijuana in 
the District, Singer says he'll welcome chefs and businesses that sell edibles.

"Hell, yeah, we will," Singer said. "And you can quote me on that."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom