The number of arrests for dealing marijuana in Washington D.C. has returned to pre-legalization levels, according to statistics released by the Metropolitan Police Department. Residents of the nation's capitol voted to make it legal to possess, grow, and share marijuana in 2014, but selling the drug remains a crime.
The Metropolitan Police arrested 220 people for dealing marijuana last year, more than double the number arrested in 2013, before any sort of legalization was even passed. Between January and April of this year, 78 people have been arrested for dealing. Some of these arrests were made by undercover cops buying $20 bags of weed in the city's poorest neighborhoods.
Adam Eidinger, co-founder of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, said that the increase in arrests is not surprising. "There’s a hefty demand, the medical program has a high barrier and we don't have stores," he said. "Until we have stores, this is something police – if they want to – can pursue and get lots and lots of arrests."
Arrests for distribution of marijuana remained at a record low in the two years following legalization, which Eidinger believes was due to the popularity of legalization making police “nervous about doing anything regarding cannabis.” However, now that time has passed, police seem increasingly eager to enforce laws against sales.
Eidinger recommends that anyone using cannabis in D.C. should strictly comply with state laws. “Every time I walk into a house and someone shows me their grow, I'm counting the plants and I'm like, 'You have 20 plants here – this isn't 12. You and your girl need to get rid of some of these plants now," he said. "I'm constantly policing this myself and a lot of people think they can go above the number. But there's a reason the number is there: to prevent a market around home grows."