Capi­tol Po­lice ar­rest mar­i­juana ac­tivists at pot give­away.

4/20 give­away in­tended to raise aware­ness on fed­eral, lo­cal tax­a­tion laws

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY LAURA KELLY

U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice ar­rested seven pro-mar­i­juana ac­tivists who were dis­tribut­ing free joints on a side­walk across from the Capi­tol build­ing Thurs­day — the un­of­fi­cial 4/20 hol­i­day for pot smok­ers the world over.

Pos­ses­sion of small amounts of mar­i­juana is le­gal un­der D.C. law, but is a pun­ish­able of­fense un­der fed­eral law.

Ac­tivists with the mar­i­juana-ad­vo­cacy group DCMJ con­ducted their pot-give­away protest out­side the Capi­tol to raise aware­ness about fed­eral and lo­cal laws block­ing the tax­a­tion and reg­u­la­tion of mar­i­juana in the District. They ar­gued that be­cause they were on city prop­erty, not fed­eral land, they were sub­ject to D.C. law on pos­ses­sion.

But Capi­tol Po­lice re­it­er­ated that fed­eral law pro­hibits the pos­ses­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion of mar­i­juana. Of­fi­cers ar­rested seven ac­tivists, charg­ing three with pos­ses­sion with in­tent to distribute and four with pos­ses­sion. The ac­tivists were taken to Capi­tol Po­lice head­quar­ters for pro­cess­ing, of­fi­cers said.

“The irony is to­day was not civil dis­obe­di­ence. To­day was law­ful behavior,” DCMJ co-founder Adam Eidinger said as he was be­ing taken away by po­lice. “Happy 4/20,” Mr. Eidinger said.

DCMJ had planned a civil dis­obe­di­ence protest for Mon­day, when ac­tivists had said they would smoke joints on the steps of the Capi­tol, which is clearly on fed­eral prop­erty. Mr. Eidinger had told The Wash­ing­ton Post that he ex­pected to be ar­rested at Mon­day’s event, hav­ing paid his rent early and ar­ranged for child­care for his daugh­ter.

The pot ac­tivists de­cried the ar­rests as be­ing po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and in­tended to sup­press their right to free speech and free­dom of assem­bly. They said the ac­tivists who were ar­rested were “Ini­tia­tive-71 com­pli­ant,” dis­tribut­ing mar­i­juana on a pub­lic D.C. side­walk in ac­cor­dance with city laws.

“The U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice didn’t have to in­voke fed­eral law on D.C. land,” said DCMJ spokesman Niko­las Schiller.

“By ar­rest­ing some of the or­ga­niz­ers, we be­lieve the ar­rests were purely po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated,” Mr. Schiller said, adding that he hopes the ar­rests will spur more peo­ple to ac­tion on Mon­day.

The District and eight states — Alaska, Colorado, Mas­sachusetts, Maine, Ne­vada, Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton — have legalized recre­ational mar­i­juana. Twenty-nine states and the District have legalized med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

The Trump administration has said it in­tends to en­force fed­eral laws on drugs, but hasn’t said specif­i­cally how it will deal with states that have legalized mar­i­juana.

A Gallup poll last fall found that 60 per­cent of adults sup­port le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana, and two-thirds of re­spon­dents in a Ya­hoo/Marist poll said they be­lieve pot is safer than opi­oids.

On Wed­nes­day, West Vir­ginia be­came the 29th state to ap­prove med­i­cal mar­i­juana, with ac­tivists prais­ing the move as a pos­i­tive step in the state’s bat­tle against opi­oid ad­dic­tion.

“There is in­creas­ing ev­i­dence that med­i­cal cannabis can help opi­oid users man­age pain more ef­fi­ciently,” said Beth Collins, of Amer­i­cans for Safe Ac­cess, a med­i­cal-mar­i­juana ad­vo­cacy group. “Given this in­for­ma­tion, it’s safe to say that West Vir­ginia’s le­gal­iza­tion of med­i­cal cannabis could re­duce the amount of opi­oid over­dose deaths in the state.”

D.C. ac­tiv­i­ties will con­tinue into the week­end with the Na­tional Cannabis Fes­ti­val set to take place on Satur­day at the RFK Sta­dium. The event will fea­ture a con­cert head­lined by hip-hop artist Talib Kweli, fea­ture ed­u­ca­tional ses­sions about pot and le­gal­iza­tion ad­vo­cacy, and ven­dors sell­ing gear for grow­ing and smok­ing weed, but not the prod­uct it­self.

LAURA KELLY/

An ac­tivist with DCMJ is ar­rested for dis­tribut­ing free mar­i­juana cig­a­rettes across the street from the U.S. Capi­tol on Thurs­day. Pot ac­tivists said the ar­rests were po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and in­tended to si­lence them.

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