“I’m being driven out of town.” That’s the lament of Adam Eidinger, standing on the steps of his basement Adams Morgan shop, Capitol Hemp, in front of the big plastic sign that announces “store closing.” He’s frustrated and angry about the events of the past several months that got him to this point, and a closing date of September 7, but he’s mindful of the authorities. He doesn’t want to say or do anything that would upset the police or the courts. His partner, Alan Amsterdam, is even more cautious; he won’t agree to talk on the record or be photographed.
It’s been like this for Eidinger and Amsterdam since last October, when the police raided their 18th Street store and another one at Fifth and H streets in Chinatown. The stores boasted “the highest-quality products made from industrial hemp” and an extensive collection of “artisan” glass water pipes and cigarette papers. The police saw it another way.
All the employees were arrested in the raid, though charges against them were later dropped. Only Eidinger and Amsterdam were charged under DC’s drug paraphernalia law, and they’ve been in and out of the courts since, trying to come to an agreement with the US Attorney’s Office, which handles Washington drug cases. When Eidinger last went to court, he says, the judge dismissed the charges against him. But Amsterdam has a court date on September 13—by which point, Eidinger says, there will be no more Capitol Hemp.
What Eidinger wants is for the prosecutor to abide by an agreement made with his lawyers to give back the cash and merchandise seized in the raid, amounting to about $3,800 and some cigarette papers. A lot more was seized, he says, “but it’s now damaged or missing.” He puts the value at tens of thousands of dollars. “Water pipes we sell that were very rare were destroyed. Dozens of large glass pipes were destroyed. They were works of art. One retailed for $6,000.”
Eidinger is bitter because he feels he and Amsterdam kept to their part of the deal—to eventually close the stores. The Chinatown store is already closed. “We did all our community service, 32 hours,” he says. “From our perspective, we kept to the spirit of the agreement. It seems the government has fallen through, but we don’t want to argue this out in court. We want to avoid a trial.”
In an earlier interview with The Washingtonian, Eidinger made it clear that Capitol Hemp did not dispense marijuana. “Do you think I’m crazy? I’m not crazy,” he said. But today he appreciates the irony that Washington is slowly moving toward the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries, though the program has hit a variety of snags and delays. “I hope the program gets off the ground,” he says. “But it was set up by someone who doesn’t know anything about cannabis, [at-large City Council member] David Catania. We need a medical marijuana patients’ rights law.”
Eidinger is among those who applied to the DC Department of Health to win one of the few licenses for marijuana grow centers and dispensaries, but he did not make the cut. The five designated cultivation centers were announced in the spring, and in July the city named the four official dispensaries, but an official start date for the program has yet to be announced. The delays, according to officials, stem from the licensing process and construction issues.
“There could be a lawsuit against DC for the delays and costs,” says Eidinger. “We have the largest per-capita marijuana use of any East Coast city. Tons of it is being provided by the black market. Most of the high grade sold in DC is coming from the West Coast. The low grade is still coming from Mexico.” He wonders if the delay in medical marijuana implementation has to do in some part with the power of the black market, which he would like to see thwarted. “If [DC] would just implement the program that is on the books, we would have medical marijuana for those who need it and no one would have to go to jail.” Eidinger says he has a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana to treat the pain from arthritis in his knee.
Eidinger, who also has a public relations business, is philosophical about not being in the medical marijuana business. “Looking at all the delays there have been, we would have spent $150,000 by now, with nothing.”
The future? “It’s really tough for me. I’d really like to keep a hemp store in DC, for the clothing. But my partner has talked about going to the suburbs.”