Washington DC’s legal marijuana market is a booming new industry, however, there are many pitfalls that come alone with the legal and moral debates surrounding this trade. DC’S legal pot market is different from a traditional “buyer-seller” practice used by most businesses nowadays.
Instead, consumers will buy an item of equal value to the marijuana product they wish to purchase, and in return, receive it as a “gift” from the vendor. This legal loophole has allowed businesses like UrbanAroma to boom, however, this unique ecosystem is not short of pitfalls.
Cannabis Culture in Washington DC
The cannabis culture in Washington DC is very different than other places that have also legalized and/or decriminalized the sale and possession of marijuana. Washington DC passed “Initiative 71,” which “grants all citizens over the age of 21 permission to possess up to two ounces of marijuana. The law allows district residents to use and grow marijuana on private property, and to exchange it as long as no money, goods or services are exchanged.”
An Overview of the Market
According to officials, “DC is the East Coast’s most thriving pot market, with more than 300 local marijuana-affiliated businesses.” However, because of the risky nature of this business, many larger companies are staying away. The law has cracked down on marijuana distribution is recent years even though the national marijuana industry is projected to be worth over $20 billion USD by 2022.
According to data provided by the DC police, arrests for possession of marijuana have fallen substantially since 2014. “However, the number of public consumption arrests have surged from a low of 99 in 2014 to an average of 274 per year for the last two years. Users could face even more risk if they decide to use marijuana on any federal land, which makes up 29 percent of DC’s total landmass.”
Even though the possession of marijuana is legal in DC, there have been many police raids on marketing events where tens of thousands of dollars in marijuana have been seized. These raids do not particularly target people vending their products through the “gift exchange” method, but rather the people who try and go around the gray area of “gift giving.”
There is one epidemic seriously complicating further legalization of marijuana in the DC area. This problem is a synthetic version of marijuana called K2. It mimics the effects of marijuana, however, it has much stronger effects and can easily be obtained at corner stores and gas stations. There has even been a rise in suspected K2 overdose calls received since 2014. Officials are unsure how this epidemic will affect the now booming marijuana industry in Washington DC.
Although this new market has the potential to become the “gift that keeps on giving,” a lot of people have their doubts. However, the industry has been bringing in a lot of money in tax revenue for Washington DC, so it does not look like it is going anywhere soon.