At least 7 ar­rested at ‘joint ses­sion’ near Capi­tol

The Washington Post - - METRO - BY JUSTIN WM. MOYER

At least seven ad­vo­cates for le­gal­ized mar­i­juana were ar­rested Thurs­day on Capi­tol Hill at an event where free joints were dis­trib­uted to con­gres­sional staffers.

The 4/20 event, billed as the “1st An­nual Joint Ses­sion,” was at First Street and Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue NE, across the street from the U.S. Capi­tol and down the block from the Supreme Court. Ac­tivists said it was the clos­est they could get to the Capi­tol while stay­ing off fed­eral land. Un­der D.C. law, small amounts of mar­i­juana can be given away in ar­eas un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

To the dis­may of some in a crowd of a few dozen peo­ple, the give­away wasn’t for every­one: Only mem­bers of Congress, con­gres­sional staff, Capi­tol Hill sup­port staff and cre­den­tialed jour­nal­ists older than 21 were in­vited to take two free joints.

James Wal­lace, a staff mem­ber for the Ar­chi­tect of the Capi­tol, was among the first of 100 peo­ple who or­ga­niz­ers said showed up, dis­played their ID and got the free­bies.

“It’s good for me for stress pur­poses,” said Wal­lace, 37. “It calms me down.”

Min­utes later, U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice seized the joints and ar­rested two ac­tivists who were dis­tribut­ing them.

Adam Eidinger, head of DCMJ, the ac­tivist group for­merly known as the D.C. Cannabis Cam­paign that or­ga­nized the give­away, said he was sur­prised by the ar­rests.

“We did not ex­pect that,” he said. “This is D.C. land. . . . those peo­ple were well within their rights.”

Eidinger and others with DCMJ used an­other sup­ply of mar­i­juana to con­tinue the joint give­away.

At least two con­gres­sional in­terns who didn’t wish to be iden­ti­fied re­ceived their free weed be­fore Eidinger and three other DCMJ mem­bers were ar­rested.

“I was per­form­ing within my le­gal rights in the Dis­trict of Columbia,” ac­tivist El­iz­a­beth Croy­don shouted as she was taken into cus­tody. “I am not a crim­i­nal!”

In a state­ment, U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice said of­fi­cers ar­rested seven peo­ple “af­ter wit­ness­ing them dis­tribut­ing mar­i­juana in pub­lic view.” Three peo­ple were charged with in­tent to dis­trib­ute, and four were charged with pos­ses­sion, au­thor­i­ties said.

“Un­der fed­eral law, it is un­law­ful to pos­sess mar­i­juana,” the state­ment said.

The ar­rests fed con­fu­sion about how U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions — who said in Fe­bru­ary “we don’t need to be le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana” — would en­force mar­i­juana laws. The Dis­trict per­mits pos­ses­sion of up to two ounces on city-con­trolled prop­erty, while some states have le­gal­ized the drug, but fed­eral re­stric­tions re­main.

In a state­ment, DCMJ co­founder Niko­las Schiller called the ar­rests “an un­law­ful vi­o­la­tion of our most ba­sic civil lib­er­ties.”

The give­away was meant as a less-con­fronta­tional pre­lude to Mon­day, when ac­tivists plan to il­le­gally smoke mar­i­juana on the steps of the U.S. Capi­tol.

MARVIN JOSEPH/THE WASH­ING­TON POST For more pic­tures, go to www.wash­ing­ton­post.com/photo.

An­war Karim films him­self Thurs­day at the 4/20 event, at which con­gres­sional staffers were of­fered free joints. Pot is le­gal in the Dis­trict, with some lim­its, but fed­eral rules re­main. On Mon­day, ac­tivists plan to il­le­gally smoke pot on the Capi­tol’s steps.

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