Capitol Hemp's Co-Owner Is Angry About Having to Close

Adam Eidinger talks about the raid on his stores, the next steps, and what he thinks of medical marijuana.
Photograph courtesy of Capitol Hemp's website.
Photograph courtesy of Capitol Hemp's website.

On its website, Capitol Hemp boasts it offers Washington “the
highest-quality products made from industrial hemp.” The police
thought the company had some other action going on and last
fall raided its two stores, one at 18th Street and Adams Mill
Road in Adams Morgan, and the other at Fifth and H streets in
Chinatown, and filed charges of selling drug paraphernalia.
This week the co-owners,
Adam Eidinger and
Alan Amsterdam, settled the case by accepting a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, a deal in which they agreed to eventually close the stores
to avoid further prosecution.

The city’s drug paraphernalia law is confusing, because it
allows for the sale of certain merchandise–for example, pipes and
“water pipes”–but the operation becomes suspect if the police
believe the items are used in an illegal way. This becomes more
interesting as DC is about to begin dispensing medical
marijuana. In an interview this

the city’s “weed czar,” Department of Health head Dr. Mohammed
, said he expects the still-to-be-named legal marijuana
dispensaries could be in business by August.

Today we caught up with Adam Eidinger, who’s still quite upset about the fate of his stores.

What happened to you and your business?

We were raided in October. Both stores. All our
employees were arrested, but their charges were eventually dropped and
But my partner, Alan Amsterdam, and I were charged with sale of
drug paraphernalia. They took $350,000 of our merchandise
out of the stores and held it as evidence. The retail value is
double that amount. We had been in business four years. We
ended up building an extensive clientele of artisan glass
collectors. We’re the best source of hemp clothing on the East Coast.

Were you locked up?

No. First we went through a series of hearings, four
in all. The government kept saying they wanted to make a deal. The US
Attorney’s Office handles all drug cases in DC because they
don’t trust the local prosecutors. Alan and I were put on probation,
basically going through the system. I was looking forward to a
trial because we were innocent. We operate a tobacco shop.
You can go to other tobacco shops and buy pipes and you are not
going to get arrested. We were very strict.

Did the police believe you sold marijuana at the store?

Yes. But they didn’t find any. What they found was that one employee in each store had a trace amount of cannabis on their
person or in their bags.

Did you ever sell marijuana through the store?

No. Do you think I’m crazy? I’m not crazy.

What happened this week in court?

We’re being forced to shut down. On Monday we agreed
to a deal that we would get our property back in 48 hours–which the
has not done–and in four months we close the stores
permanently. Just the stores, not our business. That’s what we’re going
to do. We’ll return our property to the vendors.

Why aren’t you going to trial?

We’d be bankrupted by the government even if we won.
The US attorney would put the property in forfeiture, and under those
circumstances no pipe shop like ours has ever gotten its
property back. I can’t do that. I have a family. I have a PR firm,
Mintwood Media.

Do you find it ironic that you are being closed down at approximately the same time Washington is about to begin cultivating
and dispensing medical marijuana?

Yes. We are actually applicants for licenses as cultivators and dispensers.

The chosen cultivation center applicants have been named. Are you still contenders for a dispensary license?

Yes, but we’re much more inclined to do a ballot initiative in 2013. We need to have patients’ rights. Let’s force an election
on this. This city should be giving rights to every citizen, without a doctor’s recommendation.

How do you think medical marijuana will do as a program in Washington?

The distributors who get licenses from the city are
going to fail. I hope I’m wrong. But the economics of this city and the
limitations on quantity and the absurd fees are setting it up
to fail. The license fees are three times what they charge for
liquor licenses.

Do you have a medical marijuana card?

I have a doctor’s recommendation.

For what ailment?

I have arthritis in my knee.

Would you qualify for medical marijuana by the DC standards?

No. I would not. My condition is not on the list. That’s why it’s a joke.

So, what does the future hold?

We want to save our store, but I don’t think there’s
any way out of this. If they give us our property back we have no choice
but to close. Couldn’t they have done a compliance check?
Couldn’t they have done that first? But no. “You have to close.”
It’s political.

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