News & Politics

DC Marijuana Activists Are Giving Out Free Pot Outside HUD Today

It's a protest of drug policies in federally funded public housing.

Illustration by Mike Flugennock.

As part of their “Haunted By HUD” protest, members of marijuana advocacy group DCMJ will be handing out free dime bags of cannabis tomorrow in front of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to raise awareness about the “haunting” marijuana regulations imposed upon residents of public housing.

People who live in Section 8 housing and other federally funded communities are subject to eviction if caught using marijuana in their homes, even if they are sickly and eligible for medicinal use of the drug. Adam Eidinger, who led the 2014 initiative that led to DC’s partial marijuana legalization, says these rules are discriminatory and deprive low-income DC residents of the rights that higher-income residents have.

A 2014 HUD memorandum on marijuana use in multifamily assisted properties reads that housing owners must deny admission to “any household with a member determined to be illegally using a controlled substance, e.g., marijuana.” In addition, those owners must establish policies that would allow for the eviction of tenants who are found using marijuana.

The memorandum also points out that, though some states have legalized cannabis for both medicinal and recreational uses, marijuana is still illegal under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

By staging a demonstration on the street in front of HUD, Eidinger’s group hopes to have direct conversations about reforming the law with department officials, including Secretary Ben Carson.

The event is planned to last from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM. The “gifted” bags of marijuana—District law, thanks to Congress, prohibits the direct buying or selling of marijuana for recreational purposes—will be handed out from inside a mobile structure decorated to look like both a house and a jail cell. Participants will be asked to form a line in front of the structure and present their IDs before obtaining the one-gram bags of District-grown cannabis. Eidinger expects to give away at least one pound of marijuana.

Protesters dressed in Halloween costumes will make speeches from inside the jailhouse and hope to appeal to government workers on their lunch breaks, some of whom, Eidinger believes, will take advantage of the free marijuana.

A police presence is expected, as this event has been talked about for weeks on social media, with Eidinger and other members of DCMJ trying to garner attention from policymakers and HUD officials by tagging them in posts.

“We’re making this personal,” Eidinger says. “[Drug use] is a stupid reason to kick someone out of their house, unless they’re a nuisance to their neighbors. You’re going to make them homeless and drug addicts at the same time? … Don’t deny them housing; get them help!”

Eidinger’s had mixed results with his other attempts at giving away free marijuana. A January 20 event in Dupont Circle went off largely incident-free, although Eidinger and six of his fellow activists were arrested when they tried to replicate the effort outside the US Capitol on April 20.

Erika Huber
Editorial Fellow

Erika joined Washingtonian in September 2017. She received an English degree from Towson University and has written for Investment U and Elite Daily. After graduating, she worked in financial publishing as a copy editor. She resides in Maryland.