The District is about to witness a massive, public drug deal on Thursday — and for those involved, it will be quite a bargain.
Over 800 people have confirmed attendance at a giveaway of marijuana seeds Thursday night at an Adams Morgan restaurant. The event appears unprecedented and likely to scatter the makings of more than 16,000 marijuana plants across the nation’s capital.
D.C. police plan to stay clear of the spectacle — except to direct traffic, if needed.
Organizers, meanwhile, say they hope to launch a wave of home growth and use of pot so D.C. residents can take advantage of a ballot measure approved by voters last fall that legalized possession of the plant.
The District is unique among states where possession and use have become legal, because sales remain against the law. That’s one reason that a seed giveaway — and not an opening of stores for legal sales, as has happened in Colorado and Washington state — is marking the kickoff.
Under a prohibition placed on the District by Congress, buying and selling marijuana in the capital city remains illegal. Sharing, carrying, growing and smoking, at least out of public view, are allowed.
Thanks to Congress, the District also has no ability to track the seedlings that could come from Thursday’s event and are expected to feed a gray market for bartering and other attempts to profit off legalization.
In Colorado, every marijuana seedling raised for the commercial sale of pot is tracked with a 24-digit radio frequency identification tag. Sales are heavily taxed by the state, and the money goes mostly to education. In the District, thousands of plants could soon begin growing with no such oversight or benefit to the city.
Proponents of the ballot measure counter that a crop from amateur growers could increase supply and drive down the market for illegal street sales.
Home growth was also clearly part of the ballot measure, known as Initiative 71, that voters approved in November. The measure allowed for home cultivation of six seedlings per person, with three mature plants allowable at any one time. The limit per household is 12 plants.
Growing pot in publicly subsidized housing complexes remains illegal in the city under federal law.
“Home growth is what 70 percent of voters approved,” said Adam Eidinger, head of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign. Eidinger predicted a festive scene Thursday, as well as at a second seed giveaway that the campaign is hosting on Saturday. “It’s going to be a carnival,” he said.
Animal-rights protesters, pizza trucks and politicians are expected Thursday evening at the seed giveaway in the Northwest neighborhood of Adams Morgan.
The event is being hosted at Libertine bar and restaurant. Eidinger said about 45 people have agreed to bring seeds to share. Thousands have already been divvied up by different genetic strains into bags of 10 to 20 seeds each. The seeds will be arrayed on tables on the bar’s second floor, and a line will form outside to cycle through and take a share.
While the event marks the beginning of public use of Initiative 71, it also amounts to the curtain call for the successful campaign pushed by Eidinger and other hard-core advocates for marijuana legalization in the District.
Under city election laws, the campaign must disband this spring and may no longer organize public events. Eidinger said he wishes it could remain intact to continue defending the law to critics. But Eidinger plans to form a new community group to continue promoting safe marijuana use, and he will continue to press members of Congress to allow the city to set up a system to tax and regulate pot like other states.
Of the seed giveaway, “Once the campaign is over, we won’t be doing this every year,” Eidinger said. “This is a one-time deal.”