11% Of Government Employees In D.C. Area Have Bought Legal Marijuana, Survey Suggests

Forbes/October 12, 2017/Debra Borchardt

Washington, D.C., isn’t a large market for the cannabis industry, but it could be very influential with regards to legalization. It turns out that quite a few cannabis buyers are government employees, according to new research.

Consumer Research Around Cannabis surveyed 1,368 people in the D.C. media market, which covers five million adults in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. Of the respondents, 8% said that they had bought cannabis from a legal retailer or from a dispensary.

Of the survey respondents who were government employees, 11% had bought marijuana legally, slightly higher than the 8% overall rate, and government employees accounted for 16.7% of the total number of buyers. Some 41% of the government employees approved of both legalized adult use and medical marijuana, only 11% disapproved of the legalization of both categories. This seems to fly in the face of the attitudes from the current leaders of the Department of Justice and The Drug Enforcement Agency.

Keith Stroup, legal counsel at the marijuana advocacy group NORML, said that many of the government employees who are in favor of legalization aren’t in positions that require drug testing. “Those in charge are anti-marijuana, but that doesn’t represent what most people believe in the higher levels of these agencies. Most people at the Department of Justice are frankly embarrassed by Attorney General Sessions.”

Washington, D.C. has a strange system when it comes to legal marijuana. District voters legalized recreational use of marijuana in a referendum in 2014, but members of Congress opposed to legalization have blocked it from being commercially sold in the city. However, vendors have gotten creative, bundling a “gift” of cannabis along with sales of other items, such as cookies or bags. However, there is no laboratory testing and so consumers are trusting the vendor labels of nontested products.

Stroup noted that many of the police are aware of these operations and haven’t shut them down, giving tacit approval to the recreational vendors even if they are technically illegal.

These DC cannabis consumers overwhelmingly see themselves as Independent, with 47% checking that box. Yet, these independently minded cannabis consumers are almost equally divided as to whether they identify as liberal or conservative. 27% consider themselves liberal, while 25% say they are conservative.