I’d like to state for the record that I am very thankful that I was able to buy cannabis in DC more or less legally, but man, what an odd setup.
Let me try to break it down for you: in 2014 the District of Columbia legalized recreational marijuana use by a landslide. Hooray! Break out the bong in public, right? Not so fast. Cannabis is still federally illegal, and because the District of Columbia isn’t a state, their laws are subject to review by a congressional committee. So Initiative 71 made possession, growing, and gifting legal but the actual selling of cannabis remained illegal.
This has meant no real legal storefronts; no sharp-looking pot boutiques found in places like California or Colorado. No, this meant weed retailers had to work with the loophole in the law, thereby creating a very vibrant gift economy. From anywhere to $25 and up, you can “buy” a coffee cup or digital print for that cost and in return, you will be “gifted” whatever amount of weed you asked for. My example is that I bought some very good weed by pretending to have bought a digital print of, I dunno, a cat wearing a clown collar or something. So I’ve got no beef with the weed, but I do have a beef with the vibe.
Every single one of them made you feel like a criminal, made you feel like you are a shady drug seeker. Talk about perpetuating the stigma! Every place I went to had big security hulks at the doors, and in one place, you had to place your phone in a lockbox. All of them were staffed by the kinds of guys who have probably been selling weed long before legalization and have about as much charm as a cactus. The spaces just felt like men’s spaces and despite the very good weed, I felt so out of place. I felt uncomfortable.
It tends to be a bone of contention between legacy stoners and new stoners about the “new” representation of cannabis in culture. Having gone from “gateway drug” to “wellness tool” is a hell of a journey for the legacy folks and I understand. But I also understand that the newest generation of legacy stoners will be us Gen Xers.
And honestly? As a woman, I prefer the shiny slick stores or that gorgeous one in Picton, Ontario that looks like an apothecary over feeling ashamed as I slink into a place that exists on the fringe of legality. I feel seen and safe, and I feel proud of my pre-roll purchase because I don’t have to hide. I don’t want my love of weed to be a shame, and it feels like DC keeps doing the walk of it.