As the saying goes: grass is always greener on the other side. But in Washington D.C., the long and convoluted journey to marijuana legalization has dulled the use of cannabis on either side of the fence.

It certainly appeared brighter when a handful of activists won the right to smoke weed recreationally with the passing of Initiative 71. Right now because of it, D.C. residents can possess, grow and smoke-up on private property (not on Federal lands though, which means no hotboxing the White House). People there can even gift anyone 21 years old and over with up to an ounce of weed.

But the initiative hasn’t come without its problems. To subvert them, residents are getting crafty in how they're handling it — basically just handing out weed for free.

When the initiative was written, a sneaky rider was inserted by Maryland Representative Andy Harris, which managed to forbid money from being allocated by the District to fulfill Initiative 71. Harris’ backdoor dealings easily out-maneuvered the well-meaning potheads behind Initiative 71 with confusing legal jaron. It meant no one could buy or sell weed with money. It’s left the state of D.C. cannabis in a legal quagmire.

The result is a booming black market and multiple arrests. Initially, when stoners heard about Initiative 71, they took to the streets, some in cars bedecked with marijuana leaves, to sell and distribute weed to the masses. It didn’t take long for news of the rider to spread …

… and later for a simple solution to be found amongst crafty stoners.

Realizing they could give away up to an ounce at a time, the thriving cannabis market now relies upon “gifts” of free weed with each purchase of an extortionately priced t-shirt, hat or even an educational seminar (hint: the subject of the talk is how to roll a joint, and it will be delivered to you right there and then).

Rather than being discouraged, this new trend is being embraced by politicans who support cannabis legalization. Eleanor H. Norton, a member of the U.S. Congress representing the District of Columbia, showed her support for the stoners cleverly getting around the tricky regulations.

As the entrepreneurial sparks started to fly, more and more in the D.C. canna-business got involved in giving away free weed. There are now big pop-up events there that are announced just days before on social media shout-outs — where people can buy tickets to cannabis paradise. The coveted tickets are a no-brainer, some at just $5.

As Joe Tierney, Gentleman Toker blogger told us, when compared to an extra $200 – $400 per ounce for medical marijuana in Maryland and D.C. than other states, these events are an affordable alternative. (The going rate for medical marijuana in MD and DC is between $400-$700 an ounce.)

The rewards for getting the stoner equivalent of a golden ticket can be a range of free samples, amounting to around $200 in products, all for the price of the $5 ticket. The only catch is that smoking is not allowed on the premises, so it’s not exactly a huge stoner sesh, more of a enthusiastic trade show.

And the prizes are awesome. “Oh, man,” says Tierney of his last haul. “Butter Nugg Cookies solventless edibles and vape carts, rosin from 202 Organics, flowers from District Connoisseurs, shatter from Silly Bees, [and] CBD spray from Acure by Design Plus.”

Tierney uses the CBD spray to help with a leg condition, and adds “just about any type of cannabis medicine you could want is available at Cannamania [one of the events].”

The events started small, and under a different name, says Tierney, but “by the time Cannamania rolled around, the events were packed.”

Now the events are a regular feature on D.C. event calendars, and feature some of the biggest brands in cannabis vying with each other to give out the best free samples.

“You can tell folks were enjoying the atmosphere,” says Tierney. “A lot of newbies are awestruck their first time out by the veritable cornucopia of cannabis available.”

Even though events like these persist, the law hasn't exactly been skirted completely, says Keith Stroup, founder and legal counsel for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He told Leafly recently that he equates these types of giveaways to scam opportunities. He doesn't trust them, nor does he advise anyone try to make a business out of handouts at large gatherings — the cops certainly are watching. 

"We would urge people to follow the law,” he said. “At least for those people who are sort of getting ahead of where the law is and selling marijuana under one of these scams, I would urge them to be cautious, because you are breaking the law. There’s no doubt about it.”

Because of the uncertainty, Tierney bemoans the fact that the magic of Cannamania events will inevitably be short lived, predicting “the laws to change and legal recreational sales to push the pop-ups out at some point; but the events provide an opportunity for folks to get gifts … You can peruse what's available, learn more about it, and choose what you want after inspecting it.”

For however long they continue to literally pop up, these unique events show the spirit of good karma that seems to sprout from residents. From the hippie-era to today, stoners’ puff-puff-pass mantra is shaping the cannabis industry. Simply “gifting” weed for the purchase of overpriced items, in order to jump through the legal loopholes and embrace the spirit of giving.

Sure, they may only be laying out their wares so that they can get you hooked on their products early, but for customers, it‘s a rare opportunity to see products and learn about what’s on offer in the industry.

No one seems to be complaining about the cannabis brands paying forward while the politicians squabble on Capitol Hill.

[cover photo thedevilofLA via Pixabay]