DC Capitol Hemp Shutting Down: Obama's War on Drugs to Blame

“The government is forcing a form of censorship on us," says Adam Eidinger, co-owner of Capitol Hemp, a two-store chain in Washington, D.C. that is closing its doors for good on August 1, 2012. "They are saying you can’t talk about certain subjects if you’re going to sell pipes.”

Capitol Hemp sells clothing and soaps and a vast array of glass and other types of pipes. Police raided Capitol Hemp last fall after an undercover cop reported “unnatural and deceptive” behavior at the company’s Adams Morgan branch. What raised the cop’s suspicions? According to the police report, employees corrected his use of the word bong and changed the subject whenever he brought up marijuana. The store’s book selection, which included titles on drug legalization, was also cited as proof that the place was really a criminal enterprise.

Under current law, drug paraphernalia is illegal, even absent traces of verboten substances. But since anything - from rolling papers to apple cores to beer cans - can be used to smoke pot, federal prosecutors end up relying on “context” to determine when a pipe is just a lawful pipe and not a contraband bong.

The government seized over $300,000 of merchandise from Capitol Hemp. After the feds reduced the charges in such a way that a jury trial in federal court was not an option, Capitol Hemp agreed to a deal in which it will “voluntarily” shut down in exchange for the full return of its seized merchandise. When it reopened its doors after the raid, Capitol Hemp dutifully stripped its shelves of any books devoted to drug policy.  

Eidinger and his partner aren’t alone in feeling the heat from federal prosecutors. On May 10, 2012, federal agents raided the homes and stores of 14 hemp-and-head shop owners in Idaho, seizing water pipes, glasswork, and other wares they believe constitute “drug paraphernalia.”

“The open sale of drug paraphernalia promotes unlawful drug use and helps drug traffickers thrive,” announced U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson, who was appointed by Barack Obama, at a press conference about the raids.  

If such raids are reminiscent of similar actions under George W. Bush, that’s because they are. Despite Obama drug czar Gil Kerlikowske admitting that the country “cannot arrest its way out of the drug problem,” the Obama administration is doing its damnedest to try. From increasing the number of raids on California’s medical-marijuana dispensaries (which are legal under state law) to pushing for bans on sales of cold medicines, Obama is sadly revealing himself as “just another drug warrior” despite admitting to frequent use of illegal substances. 

Sadder still: All this is happening as a record number of Americans – including even religious conservatives such as Pat Robertson – are voicing support for the legalization of marijuana. 

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Produced by Joshua Swain. Written by Swain and Nick Gillespie; hosted by Kennedy. 

About 3 minutes long. Subscribe to Reason’s YouTube channel for automatic notification when new material goes live. And go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions of all our videos. 

For more on President Obama’s disturbing record on the drug war, read “Bummer.” 

And for an in-depth analysis of how drug paraphernalia laws punish controversial speech, read “Bongs Away!” 

For ReasonTV’s playlist on drug and alcohol policy, go here.

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  • perlhaqr||

    “The government is forcing a form of censorship on us," says Adam Eidinger, co-owner of Capitol Hemp, a two-store chain in Washington, D.C. that is closing its doors for good on August 1, 2012. "They are saying you can’t talk about certain subjects if you’re going to sell pipes.”

    This has been the case for decades in the firearm business. If you sell machine guns, you are essentially not allowed to talk about how machine guns work with people who do not already own machine guns. The ATF will charge you with "conspiracy to violated the NFA" if you do.

  • John||

    this kind of stuff would never be happening if Barrack Obama was still alive.

  • Zeb||

    Or if Virginia Postrel was still the editor.

  • BakedPenguin||

    The store’s book selection, which included titles on drug legalization, was also cited as proof that the place was really a criminal enterprise.

    No 1st Amerdment rights for commerce! Corporations am not people!

  • sarcasmic||

    If you question authority about drugs being bad, what other laws are you doing to question?
    Rape?
    Murder?
    Terrorism?
    Thoughtcrime is death.

  • sloopyinca||

    Jesus Christ. I had to look at your name, sarcasmic. You sounded like a soccer mom for a minute there.

    Also, you may want to throw a /sarc tag in there in case we get an outsider wander in here.

  • sarcasmic||

    If someone can't figure out that a guy who goes by the handle sarcasmic is going to have the occasional sargasm, well, fuck 'em.

  • RBS||

    Granted, everyone who stops by HR regularly should know but in sloopy's defense it's getting really hard to tell the difference anymore.

  • sarcasmic||

    Noted.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    sloopy did just fine with my sargasm the other day.

    And it was ripe for ridicule by the stupid and uninformed.

  • Zeb||

    It is scary how even the most absurd parody we can think of actually reflects the views of a non-trivial number of people.

  • sloopyinca||

    I know, right? I swear, I had to make sure it was a regular poster from HR. Otherwise, I would have thought I had wandered into an online PTA meeting.

  • sloopyinca||

    I want to see Obama's agents arrest the Dem congressman (if elected) from CA-2 that said he will spark up on the Capitol steps if he is elected.

    I'd post the link, but SFGate keeps fucking it up. Here's a blurb from the article: No biggie. Caffrey has done that a couple of times lately on the campaign trail. If elected, the registered medical marijuana user has promised to light one up on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in support of the overall legalization of weed.

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/.....z1vWSMFNpW

  • daveInAustin||

    The president has been focused on jobs. Except, I guess when he's not. That's great, arrest everybody in the store for being in the same room as a water pipe. And supposedly there's some small-business fetish.

  • sarcasmic||

    If by "fetish" you means "something they like to fuck", then yeah government has a big time fetish for small business.
    They love nothing better than to fuck them to death. Literally.

  • sarcasmic||

    Wrong thread. Whoops.

  • fried wylie||

    works here too.

    uhhh, and by "works" I am in no way/shape/form implying any sort of (small business) employment.

  • sloopyinca||

    You two guys are the reason nobody takes libertarians seriously. Why don't you just start calling women the "c-word"?

    /a different Ken from HR

  • fried wylie||

    *smiles proudly*

    It's saying something that two guys can achieve something so grand.

  • Cyto||

    I've never understood the concept that a particular 3 dimensional shape could be declared illegal. Back in the 80's it was "personal massagers". District Attorneys around the country would stage raids of adult toy companies like "Adam and Eve" and confiscate boxes of rubber penises. Now it is glass tubes with a small metal attachment affixed to one side.

    Similarly puzzling is the prescription requirement for the purchase of "medical devices" such as an arterial stint (otherwise known as a small mesh tube). What could possibly be criminal about possessing a tiny tube made of surgical grade NiTinol? Or breast implants - small bags of salt-water or silicon?

    And additional food for thought: What is the difference between our prohibitions on certain 3-D configurations of harmless materials and the Muslim world's prohibition on 2-D configurations like Mohammed cartoons?

  • sloopyinca||

    What is the difference between our prohibitions on certain 3-D configurations of harmless materials and the Muslim world's prohibition on 2-D configurations like Mohammed cartoons?

    I guess the main difference is that they kill people for those depictions, while we only ruin their chances at a normal life. So yes, we are better than the terrorists. Barely, but still better.

  • Zeb||

    It's not criminal to possess the medical devices as far as I know, but it is absurd that they require a prescription to obtain. I'd add tests to that list. It is just idiotic that you are not allowed to get a medical blood test without a permission slip from a doctor. Imagine how much cheaper those things would be if you could walk into a store front and get tested for whatever.

  • fried wylie||

    What is the difference between our prohibitions on certain 3-D configurations of harmless materials and the Muslim world's prohibition on 2-D configurations like Mohammed cartoons?

    Volume.

  • Cyto||

    It is comments like this that make me long for a moderation system. This is what the +1 funny modifier is meant for. :)

  • fried wylie||

    If I can make at least one person smile, it's another day passed where I'm glad to still be alive.

  • ||

    I find is fascinating that Capitol Hemp gets this treatment when literally a block away BK Newsstand happily sells all kinds of bongs and pipes. But then again, BK doesn't seem to have a political agenda which would makes cops' ability to engage in thuggery more difficult.

  • ||

    The kind of reasoning required to conduct these raids drives me buggy. My daughter and her friends, for example, make occasional trips up to Bennington for pipes and bongs from a store which announces its wares as "contemporary tobacco accessories". Given the number of ways I have seen people smoke tobacco, I don't see how the feds could dispute that description. Still, in the logic of the drug war, the presence of pot-leaf-themed jewelry and tees in the same store render all devices unsuitable for tobacco consumption, and further make the owners responsible for how their customers choose to use their merchandise after they leave the store. That sort of thinking doesn't deserve to be called logic, and gives law enforcement personnel the power to subjectively find reasons to justify harassing and shutting down any business one of them dislikes.

    Sometimes I long for the more innocent days of the early seventies, when a head shop could be just a head shop.

  • Cyto||

    In another nostalgic look to the 70's, my pot-smoking friends constructed pipes and resonators using 'found materials'. Of particular value were the little screens from the intakes of lawn sprinklers. Perhaps they should go back to the future and raid "The Home Depot" for providing illegal drug delivery paraphanalia?

  • Hyperion||

    Don't give them ideas.

  • mr simple||

    Your daughter is an evil druggie? You should be arrested and fined for unauthorized child-rearing. And not just any arrested, but door kicked in in the middle of the night and stuff smashed arrested (it's more fun for the cops). Could you chain any dogs out front to make for easier targets?

  • ||

    Believe me, back in the day the proper authorities took an unhealthy interest in my parental fitness; in the end, I prevailed. I've also taken a lot of flack from a few people for my casual acknowledgment that my youngest is a confirmed pothead. Now that she's twenty, has two full time managerial jobs, and has maintained her own apartment in a much-coveted building for over two years, most of the busybodies have become mysteriously silent.

    Anyway, here's how much of a fuck I give: for her 18th birthday, I bought her a copy of Sullum's Saying Yes.

  • sloopyinca||

    BK doesn't seem to have a political agenda which would makes cops' ability to engage in thuggery more difficult.

    Or maybe the cops are just rightfully afraid of fucking with this guy.

  • ||

    Bwwwahaha!

    But it's weird because in my original post I clearly remember putting an ampersand between the B and the K. So the squirrels are filtering out ampersands now?

  • Zeb||

    Seems to be happening a lot lately.

  • fried wylie||

    The new site-software apparently doesn't allow html entities coding at all.

    both amp(the symbol)amp(text)semicolon and amp(the symbol)#38semicolon get filtered out

    allowing html entities would be too much freedom.

  • Hyperion||

    Like, in HR... hey, where did my ampersand go!

  • Hyperion||

    The open sale of drug paraphernalia war on drugs promotes unlawful drug use and helps drug traffickers thrive.

    It is really getting tedious having to fix the statements of these authoritarian luddites, but someone has to do it.

    That is like saying that if it weren't for the sale of really nice decanters and wine glasses that everyone would quit drinking. These drug warriors really are that dumb, aren't they?

  • daveInAustin||

    Did the government ever go after wine glasses and beer mugs during prohibition or did we never get that desperate. What about glass that could be used for stills?

  • Hyperion||

    I don't think so, but they really liked smashing up barrels from what I have seen on documentaries.

    It just took them a few decades to work up to their current level of stupidity.

  • JimDee||

    US Bongs, Rockville, Maryland, 1970's. Anyone remember when America used to be less dickish?

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-r4es.....img306.jpg

  • sarcasmic||

    Yeah. Before Reagan.

  • Hyperion||

    Anyone remember when America used to be less dickish?

    You mean, right before the last time that congress was in session and passed something?

  • JimDee||

    I had the oval shaped bong in the pic. A friend modified one of US Bongs' multi-chambered devices with an air pump from a fishtank to make an auto shotgun bong.

    Kids have no initiative these days.

  • JimDee||

    I had the oval shaped bong in the pic. A friend modified one of US Bongs' multi-chambered devices with an air pump from a fishtank to make an auto shotgun bong.

    Kids have no initiative these days.

  • JimDee||

    I had the oval shaped bong in the pic. A friend modified one of US Bongs' multi-chambered devices with an air pump from a fishtank to make an auto shotgun bong.

    Kids have no initiative these days.

  • sarcasmic||

    I remember the first time I purchased a bowl was at The Pipe Fitter in Boulder CO.
    The lady asks "Would you like a ..bag.. with that?"
    Being a nerved out teenager I bolted.
    A few months later they got busted for selling dope.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    OT, but this needs a thread of its own:

    http://www.wcnc.com/news/local.....26155.html

  • sarcasmic||

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Well, shitcakes. I thought I discovered sumpin'.

  • sweeterjan||

    For more on President Obama’s http://www.vendreshox.com/femm.....-c-15.html disturbing record on the drug war, read

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