Pubdate: Wed, 16 Dec 2015
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Post Company
Author: Ben Terris


Marijuana parties in Washington just aren't what they used to be, and 
Keith Stroup is pleased about that.

They used to be wild, illicit affairs, held in word-of-mouth 
locations with off-the-record agreements. Stroup, the wild-eyed, 
long-haired, wire-rimmed-glasses-wearing founder of the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, often acted as host. 
He lost his NORML job once, after outing President Jimmy Carter's 
drug czar for purportedly snorting cocaine at the organization's 1977 
Christmas party.

This week, High Times magazine-founded by a legendary pot smuggler 
who also bankrolled the 1974 launch of NORML- threw a gala dinner to 
celebrate innovators in the pot business. They did it at the 
Washington Hilton - home to the White House Correspondents' 
Association dinner and the National Prayer Breakfast - in a city that 
recently legalized marijuana for recreational use.

"It's a great time to be alive if you're a marijuana advocate," 
Stroup said, sipping white wine before taking his seat at a plated 
feast featuring crab, shrimp, medium-rare steak and creme brulee. Pot 
is legal in some form in 23 states, and nine states will vote on 
legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016.

Milling around the ballroom Monday night were the prophets of the new 
pot kingdom: old revolutionaries, entrepreneurs in suits, dudes 
sporting Army fatigues and facial tattoos, bearded guys who used to 
sneak bong rips in their parents' basement but now pay 30 percent 
taxes on their now-legal product, and at least one young woman in a 
cocktail dress hoping the industry will follow her lead into professionalism.

"I want to change the stereotype away from the hippie mentality," 
said Allyson Feiler, who owns seven shops in Colorado, moonlights as 
a consultant and is spinning off franchises of her Green Tree 
Medicinals. "Of course, the first group of people were doing it 
illegally at first, but now that it's been legal, we'll see a shift 
in quality."

"I used to grow . . . tomatoes," confided her table mate Jeremy 
Heidl, co-owner of a company that makes vaporizers. "Really . . . 
strong . . . hydroponic . . . tomatoes."

The walls were splashed bright red, punctuated by the white 
silhouettes of marijuana leaves. A DJ played in the corner, while 
neon-blue lights flickered around the room - pen-shaped vaporizers 
being put to use at each table. Just because it is legal to smoke in 
Washington doesn't mean it's okay to smoke in the Washington Hilton. 
But that wouldn't keep this High Times crowd from indulging.

"We had a problem in our hotel room because we somehow set off the 
fire alarm," said a squat man with a flat-brimmed baseball cap named 
Marcus Lentz. "We put a shower cap over the smoke alarm. It's never 
been a problem before."

Lentz was here as a founder of the group Medi Bros, an edibles 
manufacturing company from Oregon. He used to be a high school 
teacher-yes, very "Breaking Bad," but he insists he was probably more 
Jesse Pinkman than Heisenberg.

"I was the worst teacher ever," he said. "I taught home economics. I 
would just try out the kids' cookies and go smoke a joint in the back."

Now he has a Trail Blazers award from High Times.

"Marijuana is becoming mainstream, but we still think of ourselves as 
an outlaw magazine," said Dan Skye, the mustachioed editor in chief 
of High Times. "There are still people going to jail for using."

But folks such as Skye who have been at this a long time realize that 
momentum is on their side. Gone are the days when High Times would 
worry that such a party would be broken up by police. "We spend most 
of our time arguing about legal limits or whether employers can fire 
people for using," Stroup said, standing outside of the dinner. "It's 
a real luxury."

Take Jeremy Moberg, who had come to the event to receive one of the 
50-some-odd Trail Blazer awards for his pioneering work as an outdoor 
cannabis grower. Industrial pot producers face a daunting number of 
regulations if they want to grow outside, but Moberg argues that 
indoor production is a huge drain on electricity that draws mites and pests.

"We're kind of the free-range chicken of cannabis," he said. Stroup 
had to laugh. It wasn't long ago that the world had less fancy names 
for what Moberg does.

"You guys are what we used to call smugglers," he joked.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom