Since D.C. voters passed Initiative 71 to legalize adult use, possession, and the personal cultivation of cannabis in 2014, Congress has passed budget add-ons, or “riders,” each year to block the District from spending money to craft retail cannabis regulations or “enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act.”
Without retail stores, D.C. residents and tourists are forced to grow their own cannabis, rely on the kindness of others, or find one of Washington’s “gift economy” providers — companies willing to serve marijuana as a gift in exchange for donations, delivery, and packaging fees, or alongside legally taxed (although highly-priced) non-cannabis items. This is exactly the legal grey area in which new canna-businesses like High Speed and Kush Gods do business.
In the District of Columbia, the gift economy has become an industry. By crafting businesses around the rules of Initiative 71, D.C. cannabis companies have been able to forego the expensive regulatory roadblocks found in other states, while testing the boundaries of local law enforcement and their own ability to adapt.
So as venture capitalists and big tobacco make their way into the West Coast’s exploding cannabis industry, independent entrepreneurs willing to risk a little and gain a lot are making a name for themselves in D.C.. But with a Republican-controlled federal government willing to upend popular policies right at their doorstep and no change in sight for D.C.’s local regulations, will these companies be locked up, forced out, and made to pursue the cannabis green rush in a state with full regulations, or will they be able to keep thriving in Washington’s legally-grey loophole?
Watch the video above, and click here to read our feature-length deep dive into the capital's ganja gift economy.