By: Moni Pearson

The Gentleman Toker Smelling Buds
Joe Tierney (The Gentleman Toker) sampling cannabis flower – Photo by

DCL: What was your motivation for being a part of cannabis culture and ultimately the Gentleman Toker? 

GT: Legalization was super exciting to me. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had a purpose. I went to Denver when they first started legalizing cannabis. Then I had a job interview at a joint rolling company in Seattle. I was one of the last two applicants. The company flew me out to do it for a couple of days, but in the end he went with a cheaper guy and I don’t blame him lol. 

Little did I know at the time that DC voted to legalize cannabis with INITIATIVE 71. It allows people to possess, grow, and transfer up to an ounce to adults 21 and older without a sale being processed. 

I moved to DC in anticipation of INITIATIVE 71 going into effect and saw Mayor Bowser and the Council were standing up to Congress about moving forward with legalization.

For the first time it felt like politicians were not looking at me as a criminal. They view me as the productive member of society that I am, and they are fighting for my rights. It had a huge impact on me.

While a lot of brands were coming into this gifting space, I was also a medical marijuana patient in Washington DC (as soon as I moved there, I signed up lol). I felt I had good perspective on the local medical side and the gifting side (during my travels), so I started writing reviews. People were enthusiastic to come into the space once they realized there wasn’t going to be a response from law-enforcement.

If you look at my earlier work, you’d see that clearly I’m having fun with it. Swamp monsters, vampires, and elves were the sort of thing you could expect from my earlier blogging days. I was early in this space, writing more than anyone else, then traffic started to build. Washington Post, Google and a bunch of other media people hit me up after that, and it just blew up.

Back then the site offered reviews, but there’s honestly too much weed to review. In the first six months, there were around 20 brands so it would’ve been easier to keep up with. 

Thousands of people/brands have come and gone in DC over the years during this “green rush” and they stick around and don’t stick around for different reasons. I turned my focus into teaching people how to judge the quality of cannabis themselves. Operating as an independent journalist, there’s a lot of issues that I found. Test results that didn’t make any sense or THC percentage. I tried to make people aware of the defects that they should be looking out for. 

DCL: Can you tell me about the difficulty you’ve personally had with your own cannabis use?

GT: I lived between Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia for about 12 years – my job was out there and unfortunately we moved to this place in Alexandria and unbeknownst to us, it was heavily populated with current and former law-enforcement, three letter agencies and military people. I was clearly not “trapping” – with people coming in an out of my place all day. I would go out to my balcony and smoke a bowl or two throughout the day, and move on with my business. I caught my downstairs neighbor in a heated discussion with another neighbor about what they were “going to do” about me. 

“The SMELL!” – Former neighbors of Gentleman Toker

The Gentleman Toker Joe Tierney

If you ask people that don’t like pot what they don’t like about it, they’re usually going to tell you it’s the smell which is just the weirdest reason to lock people up and take away their rights. 

So I realized that I wasn’t welcome in this building. And I tried to change some of my habits like flour vaporizers etc. but at the end of the day I prefer smoking. I knew for my own peace of mind it was time for me to leave, and I also knew initiative 71 was coming up in DC and if my memory serves, I cut my lease a couple of months short I got the heck out of there. 

I realized after complaints in DC and Baltimore I just need to get a place in the country where I got some space and nobody can complain about me smoking a joint that’s where I’m at now.

DCL: What is your outlook on the progress to clarify the laws in DC?

GT: I don’t believe that the Initiative 71 gifting is going to remain the status quo for a whole lot longer. I’m optimistic there are people on the council who recognize there are a lot of problems with legalization.

There have been claims of fixing the harm that’s been done in different communities of color in the name of the “War on Drugs”. This kind of talk evaporated and if you look across the industry, it’s owned primarily by white men.

By observing other states, the Council realized that lot of people they wanted to put out of business are the same people they want to help. I believe there’s a strong sentiment that we need to get these people licenses and an opportunity to be a part of this market in DC.   

I do feel confident that we will see more licensing for more of these companies. It won’t be everyone – there are still people who will be shut out one way or the other. I always argue for no license caps, I believe that leads to a poor market. I believe you want to have as many licenses for whoever can prove they are qualified to receive them and let the market work it out. Too often we will hear a Draconian reason like we’re making too much weed. Like what? Do we make too much corn too?  The whole thing is ridiculous.

DCL: What is your connection to The National Cannabis Festival (NCF)?

I’m so glad that I was a judge for the first ever National Cannabis Championship.  The National Cannabis Festival is a natural partner for us. This is where we started – helping people find the best cannabis around. That was an amazing experience. This is where we started, and continue to have our largest presence. 

Caroline Phillips (founder of NCF) and her work speaks for itself. In an industry that is full of competitors, you won’t find anybody that has a bad word to say about Caroline. She is an amazing person and a credit to Washington DC’s cannabis culture. And we love throwing a good party. I hope everybody had a great time, because we did.