News & Politics

Dear Congress, You Can Get Free Weed Today

A giveaway starts at "High Noon" near the Capitol, limit two joints per person. Journalists are eligible.

The same group gave away joints on Inauguration Day, above. Photograph by Caroline Cunningham.

Dozens of activists plan to give away joints on Capitol Hill between noon and 6:20 p.m. Thursday to press for more lenient cannabis laws. They’re hoping members of Congress and their staff will take them up on the 4/20 offer. (Congress is in recess, but, hey, you never know.)

“We’re hoping to de-stigmatize cannabis culture and the appreciation of marijuana,” says Adam Eidinger, co-founder of community cannabis group DCMJ. “We shouldn’t have to do this on the Capitol steps, but we feel compelled to because DC is not being allowed to write its own laws.”

DCMJ is the same group that successfully advocated for more permissive marijuana laws in the District and legally gave away over 8,000 joints to the public during inauguration weekend. There were no arrests, and the event was so popular that they ran out of weed. This time around, the event is limited to members of Congress, their staff, and accredited journalists who are 21 or older. 

All the marijuana used in these protests is grown at home and donated by activists, so it’s legal according to District laws. Members of the group have been holding “rolling parties” to get ready for the giveaway, hand-creating over a thousand joints.

“If nobody shows up from some of these Congressional offices we’ve been inviting over the last few weeks, then it will show that actually they are really out of touch,” Eidinger says. “Anywhere else in America where you offer free marijuana, and it’s legal, people line up by the thousands.”

The activists want to remove cannabis entirely from the Controlled Substances Act. They support HR1227, a bipartisan federal bill that would end marijuana prohibition, and want to do away with the so-called “Harris amendment,” which the District from using any funds–federal or its own–to legalize marijuana. It’s named for United States Representative Andy Harris of Maryland, who inserted the rider into the federal appropriations act. 

“Nothing gets voted on, because the leadership is dragging its feet,” Eidinger says. “If [Thursday’s giveaway] isn’t enough, we’ll come back on Monday and we’re going to smoke on the Capitol steps and a lot of us will go to jail and then we’ll fight the charges … We are trying to inspire more resistance from cannabis reformers right now.”

Monday’s followup “smoke in” will kick off with a multi-denominational blessing before the event, led by a Rastafarian. DCMJ members are anticipating being arrested and charged under District of Columbia laws, because openly smoking outside is illegal. If this happens, activists intend to take their case to court and contend religious use.

“We’re really relishing a fight right now,” Eidinger says. “We need to make them talk about marijuana. That’s what this protest is about. We’re saying the law is unjust, and we’re going to break the law.”

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Julie Strupp is an editorial fellow. Before Washingtonian, she did francophone video, radio, and photography projects addressing gender-based violence in Togo, West Africa with Peace Corps. She worked at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and AllAfrica and has contributed to Mic, Center for Public Integrity, DCist, and more. Now a proud Petworth-dweller, she’s also a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate who loves judo, biking, art, and keeping the powerful accountable.

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