Although marijuana was made legal in the District of Columbia a few years ago, a story from U.S. News & World Report suggests that the local police department is now engaging in small time sting operations in an attempt to eliminate any sign of pot commerce from the city streets.
Officers with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department have arrested around seven people for dealing weed within the last week, the report states. The situation has local marijuana advocates fired up.
While Initiative 71 makes it completely legal for adults 21 and over to cultivate, possess and transfer marijuana in the District, the law does not allow for a legal marketplace for pot products to be sold in the same manner as they are in states like Colorado.
Some entrepreneurs, however, have finagled the rules, to some degree, and have been accepting donations for weed rather than consider it a “sale.” This loophole has apparently prompted D.C. police to scour the city undercover, looking to drag the proprietors of these grey market businesses to jail for allowing patrons to donate $20 in exchange for a gram of weed.
Dustin Sternbeck, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department, told U.S. News that this citywide sting operation is in response to “complaints from citizens of illegal narcotic sales in that area.” But he says the department is not really handling these types of marijuana offenses any differently than it has since legalization was made official.
Local marijuana advocate Adam Eidenger, one of the primary forces behind legal marijuana in the nation’s capital, says he “would disagree,” adding that this type of enforcement has ramped up over the past two years.
“There is a crackdown compared to the first year after legalization," he said. "The first year of legalization in 2015 was very hands-off, except for in Ward 8 with public smoking arrests, but now citywide there seems to be a crackdown."
The reason for all of the confusion is that Congress will not allow the District to establish a taxed and regulated system to remove marijuana from the black market. Shortly after legal weed was approved in the District, a rider was stuck inside a federal spending bill that prevents city officials from so much as lifting a finger to further legalize marijuana. There is hope that Congress will eventually lift the rider, allowing retail marijuana sales to happen throughout the city, but Republican domination on the Hill makes this progress highly unlikely, Eidenger said.
There is speculation that the police department’s sting operation got more aggressive following a 2015 case involving a weed delivery service called Kush Gods. The company offered complimentary marijuana edibles to its customers in exchange for donations. This eventually led to the proprietors of this service to be convicted of marijuana distribution.
Yet, D.C. police has refused to confirm that the latest arrests are a sign of a major crackdown.