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Capitol Hemp Closing Its Doors In Deal With Prosecutors

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 04/10/2012 10:36 am Updated: 04/10/2012 6:17 pm

Capitol Hemp
Adam Eidinger, co-owner of the 'Capitol Hemp' store, on May 20, 2010 in front of Capitol Hemp's Adams Morgan store.

WASHINGTON -- It's official: Capitol Hemp is closing its doors, as part of a deal made with federal prosecutors.

Adam Eidinger, co-owner of Capitol Hemp, formally announced the closure of both stores -- one in Adams Morgan, the other in Chinatown -- in a press statement on Monday night.

Eidinger attributes the closing to "the deferred prosecution agreement that states both stores must close on August 1, 2012." Under the agreement, which was reached with prosecutors in early April, Eidinger and Capitol Hemp's other co-owner Alan Amsterdam will not be prosecuted for drug charges stemming from the stores' October police raids. Seven employees were arrested in these raids; store inventory was seized, including what is described in the statement as "artisan glass pipes."

(Read Eidinger's deferred prosecution agreement here -- under it, Eidinger must complete 32 hours of community service, permanently close both Capitol Hemp stores and "not violate any law or be arrested on probably cause" between early April and early August in order for the charges against him to be dropped.)

Here is the complete press statement:

WASHINGTON, DC – Capitol Hemp, DC’s only source for high quality hemp clothing and accessories, should be celebrating its four-year anniversary since opening its doors on April 20, 2008. Instead, the company, which employs ten people, begins the arduous task of permanently closing down its Adams Morgan (1802 Adams Mill Rd, NW) and Chinatown (519 H St, NW) stores on August 1, 2012.

“The decision to close the doors of Capitol Hemp is not an easy one but it’s the best option of the dreadful ones available,” says Alan Amsterdam, co-owner and managing partner of Capitol Hemp’s controversial boutique, which specializes in artisan glass pipes. “I’m proud of our team’s professionalism in how they handled themselves since we were raided last October. We are going to be focused on customer service and quality products up until our last day August 1, 2012.”

Capitol Hemp showcased glass art that pushed the boundaries of functional glass; glass art created by employing techniques including Electroform (fusing copper and glass), Fuming (blowing oxidized gold/silver into the glass), Graal Work (blown glass that is etched or sandblasted with a decoration), Dichro (multiple layers of metal oxides in the glass) and uranium glass that glows brilliant green under UV light.

Capitol Hemp raised expectations among the DC Metropolitan Area’s functional glass enthusiasts by offering unique pieces crafted by highly sought-after American glass artists. The store sells functional art objects, including work by Hybrid Glass, AKM, Salt, Marble Slinger, Snic, Iladelph, Toro, Mike Higgins, Zach Puchowitz, Mike Fro, Lace Face, Kind, Darby, Syn, Sovereignty, Adam Sultan, Eric Ross, Hops, Fat Mike and hundreds of others. “Capitol Hemp’s comprehensive selection of art captured the creative explosion of functional glass blowing that will continue all over America, but not in Washington, DC after August 1,” says Amsterdam.

For now, the stores remain DC’s top sellers of eco-friendly, non-drug, industrial hemp products including the best selection of hemp clothing, food, cosmetics, paper, bags, yarn, and even fiberboard for building projects. At both locations, the stores’ construction utilized more than 2,000 lbs of hemp fiberboard, and despite the wear and tear by tens of thousands of customers, the hemp fiberboard’s durability is on full display today.

However, the selling of hemp products and the stores’ education outreach on hemp is ending as well, due to the deferred prosecution agreement that states both stores must close on August 1, 2012. While no hemp was seized in the October 2011 DC Metropolitan Police Department raids, it is noteworthy that the store’s hemp neon sign was said to represent hemp’s genetic cousin ‘marijuana’ according to the search warrant affidavit. The warrant for the October raids also cited publications and videos on the subjects of organic farming, cannabis policy, civil liberties, and books written to educate people on how to protect their constitutional rights during police encounters. The stores also offered books on the history of hemp in the United States, including historical accounts of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who were both farmers and advocates of the versatile crop. A copy of the warrant can be seen here http://dcist.com/2011/11/police_affidavit_justifies_capitol.php. A copy of the agreement Capitol Hemp made with the US Attorney is available upon request.

The Adams Morgan and Chinatown stores were designed by local architect and artist César Maxit in collaboration with Amsterdam and Eidinger. Since its opening, Capitol Hemp has championed free speech by providing Maxit and the DC51 Artist Collective space and by hosting events to display the collective’s politically charged art covering local, environmental and human rights issues.

Capitol Hemp was active in numerous hemp movement initiatives and supported efforts to reform America’s archaic hemp laws. These laws prohibit non-drug, industrial hemp farming in the United States, even though it is legal to import hemp fiber and seed products. In 2010 Capitol Hemp donated $25,000 to Proposition 19, a California voter initiative that sought to legalize all forms of cannabis, including industrial hemp farming. The initiative failed by three percentage points due in part to infighting in the reform community.

Store co-owner Adam Eidinger, who was the Communication Director for the group VoteHemp.com prior to the launch of Capitol Hemp, is a nationally known figure in the hemp industry. Eidinger is the co-creator of Hemp History Week, a national marketing and educational week of events that celebrates its third year June 4 – 10, 2012. Eidinger and Eric Steenstra, founder and president of Vote Hemp, publicly read the newly-discovered diaries of USDA Botanist Lyster Dewey in Capitol Hemp for the 1st Annual Hemp History Week in 2010. The diaries and photos proved to the world that industrial hemp was grown on the site of the Pentagon until the mid 1930’s for US government research. Dewey’s life long exploration into different strains of fiber varieties of hemp paid off during World War II when hemp supplies from Asia were cut off and US farmers grew over 400,000 acres of hemp in 1944. A story featuring the Dewey diaries in the Washington Post can be viewed here http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/12/AR2010051204933.html.

Prior to Capitol Hemp opening its doors, Eidinger was an outspoken figure on the American hemp issue. In 2009 he planted hemp seeds on the lawn of the DEA in Arlington with farmers and other leaders of the hemp industry who were frustrated by federal policy that denies such a useful crop to American farmers. A video of the protest and subsequent arrests garnered widespread attention and can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGkDovjAl6Y.

“I’m deeply saddened by the tough decision we made to close Capitol Hemp,” says co-founder Adam Eidinger. “This is a set-back for hemp enthusiasts everywhere and a sign that the nation’s drug laws are victimizing law-abiding businesses without good reason. I never expected we would be able to open Capitol Hemp under the reign of George Bush without problems, but under Democratic control we have been harassed, raided, and threatened with bankruptcy.”

Capitol Hemp generated more than $300,000 in local tax revenue, gave health care to its employees, sponsored the DC Roller Girls and donated money to local police and fire union charities. “The story of Capitol Hemp’s demise is the story of the war on drugs being enforced by DC government as a war on free speech,” says Eidinger. “Why is DC shooting itself in the foot?”

Eidinger, who has applied for a license to cultivate and dispense marijuana in the District of Columbia, notes the odd timing of Capitol Hemp's raids and closing in a recent Q&A with Washingtonian:

Do you find it ironic that you are being closed down at approximately the same time Washington is about to begin cultivating and dispensing medical marijuana?

Yes. We are actually applicants for licenses as cultivators and dispensers.

The chosen cultivation center applicants have been named. Are you still contenders for a dispensary license?

Yes, but we're much more inclined to do a ballot initiative in 2013. We need to have patients' rights. Let's force an election on this. This city should be giving rights to every citizen, without a doctor's recommendation.

In October, Eidinger said he believed the October Capitol Hemp raids were politically motivated, relating to his vocal criticism of a proposed luxury hotel in Adams Morgan, for which the developer received a $46 million tax abatement.

In a move that drug reformers found troubling, Capitol Hemp's owners stopped selling drug-related books in February.

A "source close to the store" told DCist that "lawyers for co-owners Adam Eidinger and Alan Amsterdam advised them to stop selling the books for fear that they could be used as pretext for another raid while the two negotiate with prosecutors over charges stemming from October's raids."

UPDATE: 6:11 p.m.: Eidinger contacted The Huffington Post by email to say that he is no longer an applicant for a D.C. license to cultivate and distribute marijuana: "Neither I or Alan are current applicants for the DC medical marijuana program. We got out of that last August. See http://dcpatients.org/ I told the Washingtonian we were applicants, not 'are.' I was on my cell driving to Passover and I suspect it was poor line quality, but to be clear the Washingtonian piece is incorrect." This article has been updated to reflect that change.

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