- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2016

An Oakland-based company has started selling cold-pressed juice to thirsty Washingtonians — with a side of free marijuana.

It’s the latest example of a deep contradiction at the heart of pot policy in the nation’s capital, where growing, lighting up and even giving away marijuana are all now permitted but where legalized sales are not.

As a way to skirt the city’s law against selling cannabis — while still taking advantage of residents being allowed possess up to 2 ounces of pot — HighSpeed is offering to sell residents juice and “gift” them some marijuana with their order. The company started in Oakland in 2015 and begin deliveries in the District of Columbia about two months ago, having already served about 300 customers, according to HighSpeed.

“HighSpeed’s ground-breaking service is completely legal thanks to Initiative 71, which states that if [a customer is] over 21, it is legal to possess cannabis, as long as it is given as a gift,” a Monday statement from HighSpeed said. “Customers pay solely for the juice, and the cannabis is included to show love for HighSpeed supporters.”

Would that it were so simple. On the HighSpeed website, one can order an $11 cold-pressed juice and add a “donation” that adjusts the price to either $55 or $150. With that donation comes the marijuana.

D.C. voters approved the legalization of marijuana in November 2014, and the law became effective in February 2015. It allows residents to possess and grow small amounts of pot, but it bans the sale, distribution and public consumption of the weed. The law does not apply to federally owned land, including federal parks.

The Metropolitan Police Department and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine did not respond to questions of the legality of the business, but the company in some ways mirrors the same predicament the Kush Gods business has faced recently.

Kush Gods set up in the city not long after cannabis ownership was legalized and claimed they “traded” pot for donations, rather than selling the drug. The company employed a fleet SUVs with marijuana leaves and a phone number painted on them.

But D.C. police in October opened a criminal investigation into the group and in December shut down the operation and arrested owner Nicholas Cunningham.

Mr. Cunningham maintained his innocence, but shed some light on his business practices in an interview with New York Magazine.

“I mean, of course it’s a business. I have to explain that to donors at times, people thinking I should just give it to them for free. I’ve got to explain that we still have to keep the lights on, and we still have got to provide this service, so you can’t just expect us to give this stuff away,” he told the magazine in December.

That argument didn’t hold water, though and in late March Mr. Cunningham pleaded guilty to two counts of selling marijuana to an undercover officer. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, but that was suspended in favor of two years of probation.

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