Story by Matt Kwong

Featured in: “CBC”

In at least one way, it has been a year of highs in Washington.

The American capital marks its first anniversary today as a legal pot district, the biggest jurisdiction to legalize cannabis possession in the eastern U.S. since the voter-approved Initiative 71 went into effect on Feb. 26, 2015.

Since then, weed aficionados, casual tokers and pro-cannabis activists have turned backroom possession, cultivation and the use of marijuana into a less furtive — if not fully open — lifestyle.

“Right now, we have a personal freedom initiative. It gives us the freedom to grow our own, possess our own, and give our own [to others]. That’s huge,” said Alan Amsterdam, unsealing an airtight pack of cannabis in his Washington head shop, then extracting a handful of aromatic buds for a homegrown strain he calls “Green Love Potion.”

Around this time last year, Amsterdam (“that’s my real name,” he says) might not have dared carry even this single ounce (roughly 28 grams) of weed in his bag.

“Now we’re in a situation where I can bring cannabis into my store,” the 48-year-old said as Pearl Jam played over tinny speakers.