Seven Arrested During Marijuana Handout to Hill Staffers

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UNITED STATES - APRIL 20: Volunteers with the DCMJ hand out joints during the 1st Annual Congressional #JointSession pot giveaway to credentialed Hill staff and the media at Constitution Ave. and First St. NE on April 20, 2017. The event was held by the DCMJ to call on Congress to reauthorize an amendment that prevents federal legal intervention in the District's marijuana laws. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Volunteers with the DCMJ hand out joints during the 1st Annual Congressional #JointSession pot giveaway to credentialed Hill staff and the media at Constitution Ave. and First St. NE. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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What was intended as a lawful handout of marijuana joints to Capitol Hill staffers on 4/20, also known as National Weed Day, ended in seven arrests.

The handout was organized by DCMJ and was entitled the first annual #JointSession on Thursday. Seven volunteers with the organization were arrested while distributing joints from a large bag. Adam Eidinger, co-founder of DCMJ, was of those arrested.

The main table sat at the corner of Constitution Avenue and First Street NE, a location DCMJ assumed was D.C. land and stressed in their invitation that they were distributing on “non-federal land.”

DCMJ is the group behind Initiative 71, which legalized possessing minimal amounts of marijuana for personal use in D.C. in February 2015, but federal law remained that prohibits the possession or use of any amount of marijuana.

The organizers said the order for arrest came from the chief of the Capitol Police. The land was treated as federal, according to a statement from the Capitol Police.

“Under federal law, it is unlawful to possess marijuana. As of 2:30 p.m., one adult male and two adult female arrestees were charged with 21 USC 841(a) (possession with intent to distribute). Four adult females were charged with 21 USC 844(a) (possession). They were taken to USCP Headquarters for processing,” the statement read.

UNITED STATES - APRIL 20: RachelRamone Donlan, left, and Collette Cobb, are arrested after handing out joints during the 1st Annual Congressional #JointSession pot giveaway to credentialed Hill staff and the media on Constitution Ave. and First St. NE on April 20, 2017. The event was held by the DCMJ to call on Congress to reauthorize an amendment that prevents federal legal intervention in the District's marijuana laws. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rachel Ramone Donlan, left, and Collette Cobb, are arrested after handing out joints during the 1st Annual Congressional #JointSession pot giveaway to credentialed Hill staff and the media on Constitution Avenue and First Street NE on April 20, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

At 2 p.m., all the marijuana had been taken away by the Capitol Police and those remaining were asking for volunteers willing to be arrested to bring marijuana over and hand it out. The group stayed in the space to use it as a protest.

Organizers said they had no intention of being arrested during the handout.

To receive a joint, each person had to present a congressional ID and license proving they were 21 years or older.

Dozens of Hill staffers, including interns, showed their IDs and received two joints. Other employees from the Library of Congress, the Department of Commerce, Capitol support and Amtrak also attended.

UNITED STATES - APRIL 20: Adam Eidinger of DCMJ, left, and Elizabeth Croydon, hand out joints during the 1st Annual Congressional #JointSession pot giveaway to credentialed Hill staff and the media at Constitution Ave. and First St. NE on April 20, 2017. The event was held by the DCMJ to call on Congress to reauthorize an amendment that prevents federal legal intervention in the District's marijuana laws. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Adam Eidinger of DCMJ, left, and Elizabeth Croydon, hand out joints (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Initiative 71 states that no more than two ounces can be possessed (a joint is about 0.02 ounces) and no payment or exchanges can be used to possess the marijuana (the event was a giveaway).

Marijuana cannot be smoked in any public space, which organizers reminded attendees. Several D.C. residents, who don’t work on the Hill, were disappointed that they could not also get joints and stuck around hopeful that they may be able to.

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