Pubdate: Fri, 27 Mar 2015
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Post Company
Authors: Aaron C. Davis and Perry Stein


Hundreds Turn Out for Giveaway Intended to Promote Home Growing

The District witnessed a massive, public drug deal Thursday - and for 
those involved, it was quite a bargain.

With D.C. police officers looking on, hundreds of city residents 
lined up and then walked away from an Adams Morgan restaurant 
carrying baggies containing marijuana seeds.

Taking advantage of a ballot measure approved last fall by voters 
that legalized possession of the plant, the unprecedented giveaway 
scattered what organizers said were thousands of pot seeds to 
cultivate in homes and apartments across the nation's capital.

If D.C. residents have green thumbs, a homegrown crop of pot could be 
ready for legal consumption by late summer.

The District is unique among the handful of jurisdictions that have 
legalized pot for recreational use; under a prohibition by Congress, 
buying and selling marijuana remains against the law. That made 
Thursday's giveaway - and not the opening of stores for legal sales, 
as has happened in Colorado and Washington state - the 
highest-profile event to date marking the reality of legalization.

The line for the marijuana "seed share" at the Libertine bar and 
restaurant snaked around 18th Street NW almost all the way to 
Champlain Street. It included people of many ages and ethnic 
backgrounds and from all corners of the city. Close to 8 p.m., it 
also featured a pouring rain.

Wendell Myers didn't want to to stand at the back of a line hundreds 
of people long, but he had no choice. He wanted marijuana seeds, and 
this was the only place he could legally snag some.

"If I could buy it, I wouldn't need the seeds," said Myers, 53, who 
lives in Petworth. "I can't grow anything. But it's a weed. I know 
I've already been able to grow those in my back yard."

Thanks to Congress, the District has no ability to track the seeds 
dispersed Thursday. That could feed a "gray market" for bartering and 
other attempts to profit off legalization.

In Colorado, every seedling raised for the commercial sale of pot is 
tracked with a 24-digit radio-frequency identification tag. Sales are 
heavily taxed by the state, with the money going mostly to education. 
In the District, thousands of plants could soon begin growing with no 
such oversight or benefit to the city.

But proponents of the ballot measure say that a crop from amateur 
growers could increase supply and reduce the market for illegal street sales.

The giveaway attracted no protest and little attention from official 
Washington. D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump offered a short 
comment went asked about the event: "Seed sharing is not prohibited."

Home growing was intended by the ballot measure, known as Initiative 
71, which voters approved in November. The measure allowed for 
owning, growing, sharing and smoking (out of public view) marijuana. 
Each resident in the District is allowed to cultivate six seedlings 
and up to three mature plants. The limit per household is 12 plants.

Growing pot in publicly subsidized housing complexes remains illegal 
in the city under federal law.

"Home growth is what 70 percent of voters approved," said Adam 
Eidinger, head of the seed giveaway's sponsor, D.C. Cannabis Campaign.

Near the entrance to Libertine, Eidinger was the marijuana maestro 
Thursday night, wearing a red bandanna and ushering inside a 
single-file line of grinning patrons with talk of the racial 
injustices in D.C. jails that led him to spearhead the effort to 
legalize marijuana.

Eidinger said he and about 50 people brought seeds to share. In the 
days before the giveaway, thousands were divvied up according to 
genetic strains. In bags of 10 to 20 seeds each, they were arrayed on 
tables on the bar's second floor when the doors opened at 5:30 p.m.

Todd Kingman, 22, brought thousands of seeds from his personal 
collection to give away. He wasn't specific about how he obtained 
them but said he collected them over time and purchased at least some 
from online seed banks abroad. He already grows marijuana at his home 
near Adams Morgan and said he didn't mind handing out the seeds free.

"I wanted to give someone else an opportunity to do what I do," he said.

Outside, many in line declined to be interviewed or share their names 
with reporters. But the giveaway was festive. An activist from People 
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals dressed in a cow costume and 
handed out vegan snacks. The group's message: When the munchies 
strike, "Say No to Pot (Roast)."

A second giveaway is planned Saturday at the cannabis campaign's 
headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue off Dupont Circle. Eidinger said 
1,300 people in all had signed up to attend the two events.

While Thursday's event marked the beginning of public use of 
Initiative 71, it also amounted to the curtain call for the 
successful campaign pushed by Eidinger and other hard-core advocates 
of marijuana legalization in the District.

Under city election laws, the campaign must disband this spring and 
discontinue organizing public events. Eidinger said he wishes it 
could continue defending the law from critics. He said he plans to 
form a new community group to continue promoting safe marijuana use, 
and he will keep pressing members of Congress to allow the city to 
set up a system to tax and regulate pot like Colorado does.

Of the seed giveaway, he said: "Once the campaign is over, we won't 
be doing this every year. This is a one-time deal."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom