Capitol Hemp first opened its doors in 2008 and quickly became the leading retailer of industrial hemp products in the Washington DC area. However, just four short years later, Capitol Hemp was raided by the Metropolitan Police Department in 2011 under the false premise that the DC shop was selling marijuana as well as other illegal paraphernalia. In order to get all seized product back, Capitol Hemp accepted a plea agreement with prosecutors to avoid prosecution, and closed a year later in the fall of 2012.
The Capitol Hemp story does not end there. In fact, it’s where it begins. At the time of the shutdown, products sold legally throughout Washington DC could have been used to consume cannabis, but the sale of the product only became illegal if the vendor openly knew the product was going to be used in violation of the law. Capitol Hemp operated a zero-tolerance policy towards the sale of paraphernalia for illicit use and being shut down and forced to close only further inspired the owners Adam Eidinger and Alan Amsterdam.
Instead of accepting defeat, Adam and Alan decided to turn their efforts towards the legalization of cannabis in Washington DC. The guys hired a lawyer and proposed Ballot Initiative 71. Ballot Initiative 71 allows adults in the District of Columbia to legally possess up to two ounces of cannabis outside their home, give up to an ounce of cannabis to other adults, and grow up to six cannabis plants at home. More importantly, Ballot Initiative 71 allows retailers in the District of Columbia to sell products that can be explicitly used for the consumption, processing, and cultivation of cannabis. In order to get the initiative on the ballot, the Adam and Alan worked hard to round up over 23,000 DC resident signatures over a six month period. With the required signatures in hand, they headed to the Board of Elections and got Initiative 71 on the ballot for 2014. Then in November of 2014 the voters of Washington DC overwhelmingly voted in favor of the initiative, with over 70% support.
After some preliminary troubles with the new initiative we resolved, it eventually became law in February of 2015. With that, Capitol Hemp was able to finally reopen their doors. This time, with an additional owner on board, attorney Matthew von Fricken.
“The best thing about working in this industry is the people. It’s great to be surrounded by very likeminded people who are conscious about changing laws in our country and working towards a future where this industry isn’t looked at like the people behind it are second class citizens. We are normal tax payers. We are small business owners just like everybody else, and we deserve to be treated as such,” explains Alan.
With such strong dedication the shop and the industry as a whole, it’s no wonder Capitol Hemp has prevailed through even the most challenging times. The shop’s dedication to serving customers and fight to provide their service to the community is what defines their success.
“The customers and the culture is why we love this industry so much. We are a shop that is submerged in the culture, we aren’t just here to sell stuff. We loved the culture so much that we always want to be a part of it. But more than that, we wanted to do it right. Before we opened, we didn’t see anyone in Washington DC doing it right, so we made the choice to take the reins and do it ourselves,” says Alan.
When it comes to activism, doing things yourself, and fighting for a cause it makes sense that this all happened in Washington DC. “We come from this heavy metal DC, punk rock world and we all have that ‘do it yourself’ mentality. We know if we want something done, it is possible, we just have to go out there and get it done. Around here, it’s always been that way,” explains Alan.
Capitol Hemp stays very connected in the community, after all it’s the community that made it possible for them to reopen. They advertise in the local paper, but also go out to events and pass out flyers and hold giveaways.
“If you are unhappy with the way your community looks at your head shop or you find your shop struggling, go to the people in your town that are in charge locally. Go to their fundraisers. Talk to them and find out which local politicians are on your side and support them. You need to be involved in your community and engage them. If you choose to take a ‘hands off’ attitude, you will be victims like we were,” says Alan.
So what’s next for Capitol Hemp? Expansion of course.
“We will be expanding. The goal is to get further into the cannabis industry. It’s not if cannabis is going to be legal, it’s when,” says Alan.
It comes as no surprise that Capitol Hemp has found success over the years. Even the most challenging obstacles prove to be no match for the owners and their community. Armed with the idea that failure isn’t an option, Capitol Hemp – and the cannabis industry as a whole, will be sure to see even more success in the years to come. SVBS