Free pot giveaway leads to arrests near U.S. Capitol

Capitol Police said in a statement the arrests were made under federal law, with three charged for possession with intent to distribute and four charged with possession.

Thursday was April 20th, or 4/20, a day that is celebrated by many marijuana lovers.

The event - which DCMJ is calling their first annual "joint session" - is open to anyone who works on Capitol Hill with a valid congressional ID. People living in the District can grow up to six plants inside their home or purchase medical marijuana if they have a qualifying condition.

Marijuana smoke-ins, street parties and concerts marked the informal 4/20 pot holiday across the country on Thursday, but police spoiled one cannabis event near the U.S. Capitol with arrests and seizure of joints.

At least seven advocates for legalized marijuana were arrested Thursday on Capitol Hill at an event where free joints were distributed to congressional staffers. ("Guess I gotta go buy me a bag now!" exclaimed one disappointed onlooker wearing a bucket hat patterned with marijuana leaves.) One activist from Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that opposes cannabis legalization, handed out bags of Cheetos with anti-marijuana talking points stapled to them. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

The giveaway happened on a city street next to the US capitol. "Its use and possession is against federal law and until the law is changed by the U.S. Congress we in DHS are sworn to uphold all the laws on the books".

While federal law still prohibits marijuana consumption, a 2013 memo issued by the Obama administration effectively left enforcement and regulation up to the states, and the Trump administration has yet to reverse it.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly recently called marijuana "a potentially risky gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs" - a view long held by drug warriors despite scant evidence of its validity.

"At approximately 12:18 p.m. today, United States Capitol Police (USCP) officers began arresting several individuals after witnessing them distributing marijuana in public view to passersby at First and Constitution Avenue, NE", said the statement from USCP spokeswoman Eva Malecki.

Nikolas Schiller, co-founder of marijuana advocacy group DCMJ, says he believes his group was in compliance with District laws.

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.

Despite the trend, it remains a Schedule 1 drug by federal standards.

  • Larry Hoffman