Saturday, October 29, 2011

DC Raids Drug Paraphrenalia Shops, Begins Marijuana Crackdown // Marriott Tax Break Opponent, Former Council Candidate Targeted

More news of the policy weird: The District of Columbia appears to be cracking down on "head shops" (ie: stores that sell marijuana "tobacco" pipes and accessories). DC bloggers are abuzz about the sudden and unexplained policy move (see ie: Prince of Petworth and DCist), which started with the arrest of Adam Eidinger, owner of the Capitol Hemp head shop and former candidate for City Council. Notably, Eidinger had recently called on #occupydc protesters to come to Adams Morgan as part of his campaign to oppose a $46 million tax abatement Marriott is receiving for an Adams Morgan boutique hotel. Fox News DC reported:
Adam Eidinger says his store is being targeted because of his opposition to a proposed luxury hotel development. Six employees and one customer were arrested and hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise was confiscated. Everyone arrested was eventually released and the charges of possession with intent to distribute, lowered. Capitol Hemp says sells clothing and food made from hemp, as well as tobacco and accessories. 
Eidinger says his business in Adam's Morgan has been open for 4 years. The Chinatown location has been open for two years. He says there have never been any problems or violations. He says, "I've been told if I speak out against this hotel I might lose my business. I guess yesterday was an attempt top shut me down." 
D.C. police haven't said why they raided Capitol Hemp. 
Eidinger is one of a growing number of people in Adam's Morgan who are opposed to a proposed 10-story luxury hotel that will be located behind a historic church at Euclid and Champlain Streets. The developer is set to get $46 million tax abatement.... 
Eidinger says, "Our business paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes last year to local government. We're not getting tax breaks. Why is Marriott getting a break? We're sick of this."
The Huffington Post elaborated on the city's possible motives:
On Wednesday, Eidinger posted a note to the Adams Morgan online message board calling for an Occupy Adams Morgan to begin immediately after a Thursday evening community meeting with D.C. officials to talk about the proposed development. 
"I think it's no coincidence that the day I talk about occupying in my own community, in my own neighborhood where I live, where I own a business, that I'm raided," Eidinger said.
Amazingly, only after Eidinger called out the city's possible political motives did they decide to raid two other head shops, B&K News and Shiva in Adams Morgan. DCist reported last night:
...officers from the Metropolitan Police Department raided two additional head shops along 18th Street in Adams Morgan.... Both of the shops are located about a block away from Capitol Hemp, whose two locations were raided yesterday as part of what police called an "ongoing investigation." 
This evening's search warrants were executed by members of MPD's Third District Vice Squad, and the charges are likely to be drug paraphernalia-related -- police appeared to be confiscating many pipes from both locations during the raids. (All four stores which have been raided in the last two days sell pipes and bongs.)
The timing here certainly makes it look like they may have raided more stores just to provide cover for their raid on Eidinger (and presumably to disguise the possible motives). The reason why this seems like more than just a conspiracy theory is that the District's public has long preferred drug liberalization laws and the city is currently moving towards opening medical marijuana dispensaries right now. Additionally, the police raided Eidinger's stores with the idea of trying to nail him for intent to distribute, then lowered the charges, as they later appear to have only found "trace amounts" of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana). This certainly has the characteristics of a harassment campaign or a fishing expedition.

In fact, it was the GOP Congress that had for many years squashed the District's desires to establish all manner of liberal policies relating to family planning, needle exchange, voting rights, and marijuana. The District passed medical marijuana 10 years ago with a 69% vote.... well ahead of the recent surge in states.That's why the recent raids seem suspicious, given the policy trajectory of the District. Further, like in most areas right now, police do not appear to be making non-violent marijuana cases a priority -- especially as the District continues to face under-addressed violent crime issues in various neighborhoods. Hmm.

Does anyone remember when Marion Barry tried to run for Mayor again after serving time in prison, and the police amazingly found "trace amounts" of cocaine in his car? At the time, I thought it was obviously a politically-motivated use of police powers, but most folks (especially in my native MoCo) didn't care, because the ends seemingly justified the means. (Note: I'm not endorsing Marion Barry or anything, but I gotta call this one like I saw it). Now that I'm seeing this police behavior unfold again, I've got epic dejavu.

I've emailed city officials for a response on this, and the Mayor, Council and Chief of Police are dead silent. They better come up with a good explanation fast, because so far this doesn't look kosher at all.

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