Pubdate: Thu, 24 Dec 2015
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Post Company
Author: Tom Jackman


'Kush Gods' Took 'Donations'

Cannabis-Laced Treats Traded on Streets of D.C.

For months, a brightly painted Mercedes SUV and a Lexus coupe plied 
the hipster spots of the District along H and U streets and Adams 
Morgan, their operators openly doling out brownies, cupcakes, cookies 
and gummy bears that police say were laced with marijuana. The 
vehicles, with out-of-state plates and bearing pictures of marijuana 
plants, were as common in some neighborhoods as food trucks, and the 
proprietors of "KushGods" did little to hide their enterprise. They 
talked to the media about trading pot for "donations," and patrons 
could follow them on Twitter and call the mon a phone advertised on 
the vehicles.

D.C. police labeled the enterprise criminal, and on Tuesday evening 
officers swooped down on the group as they set up on H Street NE, ar 
resting Nicholas Cunningham ,30, who calls himself "Kush," after a 
strain of cannabis, and a worker, Evonne Lidoff, 18. It is legal in 
the District to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and give up to 
an ounce to someone else, though selling any amount is illegal.

After his court appearance Wednesday, Cunningham called his arrest a 
"misunderstanding" but declined to elaborate. He said "marijuana 
business is good for the community. It cuts down on crime and helps 
people with epilepsy. I came to D.C. to heal the nation."

Authorities allege that Cunningham was selling marijuana illegally 
from vehicles as openly as a chocolate sundae is sold from an ice 
cream truck. Federal and local police have made only seven busts for 
marijuana possession in 10 months this year, but have vowed to 
continue to target traffickers. One Internet site dubbed Kush Gods as 
"weed on wheels," and New York magazine called his vehicles "one of 
the few outward signs that marijuana is legal in the nation's capital."

Assistant D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said the investigation was 
driven by "numerous complaints from people about the blatant sales of 

Newsham said the investigation began in October, and court documents 
say an undercover officer made eight buys over the course of several 
weeks. That officer returned with pot-infused brownies, gummy bears, 
cupcakes and, a few times, plastic bags filled with marijuana in leaf 
form costing $400, an arrest warrant said. In some cases, undercover 
officers set up buys beforehand by texting the number advertised on 
the vehicles, and police said each transaction involved hundreds of 
dollars in drugs, far more than a single edible snack.

Cunningham and Lidoff, of Northwest Washington, each were charged 
with four counts of distribution of marijuana, which are 
misdemeanors. Police said Cunningham is from Birmingham, Ala., but 
documents also list a Maryland address for him. The warrant 
identifies Cunningham as the operator of Kush Gods.

Both defendants pleaded not guilty Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court, 
and were released pending a hearing Jan. 28 and ordered to stay out 
of parts of Washington, including Chinatown and 13th and 16th streets 
near T and V streets NW.

Cunningham at first objected to the stay-away order. "I have a mobile 
business near Gallery Place," he told the judge.

"The mobile business is selling marijuana," Assistant U.S. Attorney 
Charles Cobb responded.

Cunningham said his 5,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter and 
Instagram will find out where he will be located in the District in 
the coming days. "I know what I am doing is legal," he said.

The business appears to be trying to parse the District law over how 
marijuana can be distributed. In interviews before his arrest, a man 
who identified himself as the owner told Fox 5 and New York magazine 
that he gave treats away free and that any money customers gave him 
were voluntary "donations." But others familiar with the laws, even 
those who support making it legal to sell and tax pot, disagree.

"People have been asking me since the law went into effect, is that 
legal what they're doing?" said Adam Eidinger, who runs Capitol Hemp 
shop in Adams Morgan and led the movement to legalize marijuana in 
the District. "Promising marijuana for a donation . . . is a quid pro 
quo. If you ask for something in return, it's not really giving."

Eidinger said he "feels bad for them that they got busted, but they 
shouldn't be surprised. No one in the marijuana community has been 
telling them that what they're doing is okay. . . . They've been 
doing this in front of law enforcement for months."

Two weeks ago, New York magazine quoted a man identified as Nycholas 
Kush God saying "the brownies, each package is pretty much$10." In 
that story, Kush God said: "I mean, of course it's a business. I have 
to explain that to donors at times, people thinking I should just 
give it to them for free. I've got to explain that we still have to 
keep the lights on, and we still have got to provide this service, so 
you can't just expect us to give this stuff away."

Clarence Williams and Perry Stein contributed to this report.
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