A big cannabis bust in northeast Washington D.C. has highlighted some of the contradictions in the city’s recreational cannabis law which allows residents to gift—but not sell—weed.
The raid, which took place when police executed a search warrant late last Saturday, led to 30 arrests, several pounds of cannabis from 28 different vendors, and over $10,000 in cash, according to WTOP 103.5 FM.
The party appears to have been one of the city’s many “giveaway” parties, designed around a tenuous interpretation of the city’s legalization statutes. The “giveaway” parties are based on the logic that, because residents are allowed to give away up to an ounce of cannabis, it’s okay to sell a small object like a sticker for $160 and just toss in an ounce of pot with it.
People seem to love them. The D.C. police, however, do not.
“Distribution of marijuana is illegal for anything of value,” D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham told WTOP. “We’re just trying to make it very clear to folks.”
These “giveaway” parties have attracted increased scrutiny from law enforcement. Police say the uptick in cannabis busts is tied to complaints. But with the question of where residents can buy the cannabis they’re legally allowed to possess unanswered, it’s not hard to see why residents are still at it.
Despite D.C.’s own wishes—local politicians and their Department of Health have argued in favor of allowing cannabis sales. Congress control’s the city’s funding and has restricted it from using funds to implement a system for recreational cannabis sales. The gifting pseudo-economy has been going on since then, as reported by NPR.
Recently, D.C.’s own Board of Elections blocked a bill that would have legalized retail sales and set aside 40 percent of the proceeds for the city’s black residents, pointing out that it would violate both city law and Congress’ mandate. The initiative was submitted by local political candidate Asar Mustafa, who told WAMU 88.5 that keeping cannabis sales restricted was harming minorities and hurting jobs.
“Those same men and women the city has typecast as criminals,” he said. “If you legalize cannabis, you’re talking about employing those people and you get a chance to tax them while they’re working in the cannabis industry.”