On a busy DC street corner, on a cold afternoon, a Mercedes-Benz sits parked outside of a storefront window. There are other cars parked on the street, but this vehicle stands out – mainly because it’s covered with pictures of marijuana plants and has Kush Gods written in huge lettering across its side.
Two police officers stand nearby, watching the car with stone-faced expressions and crossed arms, but there is nothing they can do.
An older man, a few young professionals, and a woman whose balding head is wrapped tightly in a scarf are all lined up at the car’s passenger-side window. Some look nervous as they spot the officers across the street, but the women in the car smile and assure everyone that what they are doing is perfectly legal.
Selling marijuana is, of course, still very much illegal in Washington, DC, but this mobile dispensary isn’t actually selling any marijuana. It is, however, giving it away in exchange for a donation. And thanks to a loophole in the law, the Kush Gods have been getting away with this for almost two years.
Prohibition’s days may be numbered, but devoted bureaucrats are still doing everything they can to cling to their outdated policies before they are eviscerated entirely.
This is, perhaps, best illustrated in the nation’s capital, where marijuana prohibition is in a unique state of limbo.
Congress Ruins the Day…Again
As pollsters were predicting a sweeping victory for Initiative 71 – the 2014 ballot initiative to decriminalize marijuana in Washington, DC – Congress was busy looking for ways to stop it from passing. Since DC does not have statehood, it does not enjoy any sovereign state rights, meaning Congress has jurisdiction over many of its policies.
On the eve of election night, Congress passed a law that forbade the District of Columbia from altering its tax code in order to accommodate for the buying and selling of marijuana. This little insurance policy made certain that even if the ballot measure passed, selling and purchasing pot would still remain illegal within the boundaries of DC.
After passing with almost 65 percent of the vote, the “grow and give” policy now allows DC residents to possess, grow, and give away marijuana. However, selling and purchasing the plant are both still strictly prohibited.
A “Pot-repreneur” is Born
Nicholas “Kush God” Cunningham might be the most brilliant businessman in Washington, DC. He saw a gap in the market and seized the opportunity to make a profit even though he’s had to fight the State every step of the way.
Cunningham familiarized himself with the new laws and figured out a way to make his mobile dispensary operational in spite of the government’s restrictions.
He ultimately came to the conclusion that selling marijuana and staying in business was going to be tricky, if not impossible, but giving it might be the perfect solution. So long as he required a “donation” in exchange for each herbal gift, he would still be able to make a profit.
In addition to being a “potrepreneur,” Cunningham is also an aspiring rapper, so naturally, his “cause” became his music. Anyone donating to Kush Gods is technically helping Cunningham launch his music career, which often touches on political themes.
Beating the System
Much like a food truck or pop-up venture, potential “donors” can either send a text or check social media in order to learn the daily hours and locations of the Kush Gods.
Upon arrival, donors approach the passenger window of one of Cunningham’s many loudly painted Mercedes. All patrons must show identification to a Kush God’s employee in order to verify that they are over 21 and legally able to possess marijuana within Washington, DC.
To be extra cautious, after verifying age, the Kush Gods representative in the car sends the donor to another location, usually less than a block away. The mobile dispensary never keeps the product inside the vehicle. The patron’s description is texted to the second representative, who then approaches and hands over the complimentary gift upon arrival.
In the two and a half since Kush Gods has been operational, local law enforcement has done everything in their power to shut it down. Aside from a few more serious run-ins with the law, Cunningham has managed to keep his business alive and thriving.
While local authorities have confiscated his fleet of expensive cars on multiple occasions, the “Kush God” never stays down for too long.
Instead of trying to fly below the radar, Cunningham has been very public about what he is doing. Since he does not believe he is breaking any laws, he does not believe he has anything to hide.
The government, on the other hand, continues to be unsuccessful at putting Cunningham out of business for more than a few days at a time. Clearly, the State doesn’t realize that laws cannot erase market demand.
If there is a strong enough desire for a product, the market will find a way to provide for its consumers.
Perhaps the most ironic part of this whole debacle is that had Congress allowed DC to tax and sell marijuana, the government would have at least been able to take some of Cunningham’s earnings. However, thanks to the incompetency and short-sidedness of government, Cunningham isn’t subject to sales tax because he isn’t legally allowed to sell anything.