Marijuana activists want less restriction in D.C.

Kaylin Culliver, Howard University News Service

The implicit national marijuana "holiday," 4/20, has passed and it’s left some people with a contact high and others with a headache over the District's weed rules.

The National Cannabis Policy Summit was held at The Newseum, and festivalgoers there felt as though the police were overly eager to find a reason to make a marijuana-related arrest. 

According to The Washington Post, arrests for public use of marijuana nearly tripled in 2016. The District decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2015, but it's still illegal to sell it.

However, Pro-marijuana activist and D.C.M.J. (Pro-Cannabis organization) coordinator, Adam Eidinger, took exception to what he characterized as excessive policing and called a town meeting at Petworth Library on April 25.

At the meeting, Eidinger met with other members of the organization and created a list of laws to present to Democratic politicians before the July 25 primary election. 

On that list, Eidinger emphasized the importance of marijuana smoking zones for public housing residents. For people on welfare or Section 8, Eidinger said, “they’re not given the same freedoms as people who aren’t on government assistance. Everyone should have the right to smoke marijuana, recreationally or medicinally, regardless of where they live.”

"If people are permitted to have cigarette zones; which are proven to kill you in the long run. Then we should be allowed to have marijuana zones," said dispensary owner and D.C.M.J. volunteer Leslie Jones. "If not because of equality, because marijuana has been proven to have healing effects and some people do rely on it medicinally.”

Co-coordinator Nikolas Schiller added that it was important to highlight the community discomfort with the overbearing police presence at marijuana events. 

"Police officers scare people away with their presence and they come to bars and pop-up sessions, to try and catch people walking with more than two grams of weed. It’s like babysitting grown people. That is a violation of rights all within itself,” Schiller added.

D.C. police have cracked down on marijuana-related events and parties in the past. Metropolitan police tweeted in March that officers had shut down a "marijuana vendors" event in Adams Morgan.

After the consistent conversation about what to add to the proposal, Eidinger closed the meeting by reminding the organization members that before the primary election, they would be going door to door to ensure people are registered. He stated, “The more people that are registered, the better. If we get enough people to vote, we can pass a bill that provides opportunities for people who live in government-owned buildings, as well as loosen the reigns on how and when we smoke marijuana.