Cannabis and Civil Disobedience in D.C.
Right now, there is a trace of illegal cannabis in the office of the President Trump’s attorney general nominee, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who famously said that good people don’t smoke marijuana.
It’s not much – a tiny leaflet, or maybe just a trace of it, lurking in the corner of the office near the door, or maybe under a chair, depending on the diligence of the cleaning crew. It happened December 8.
DOPE Magazine was there when a big bud landed on the carpet in Sessions’ office that day. One of the dozen activists from Philadelphia and D.C. standing in Sessions’ office pulled out a bud, broke it up, dropped some of it, quickly picked it up, rolled a joint and then put it in his mouth during a protest meeting with Chris Jackson, the senator’s budget and trade legislative counsel.
The appearance of this protest group in Sessions office was the second of five “smoke sessions” organized by Adam Eidinger, the cannabis activist who was instrumental in getting recreational cannabis legalized in the city in November, 2014, and has staged a number of legalization and descheduling protests since then in the District.
Eidinger and a small group of followers had been in Sessions office before, on November 28, and threatened to light up. That didn’t happen. But Eidinger felt that they needed to up the ante.
Before heading over to Sessions’ office this time, Eidinger held a press conference in front of the Heritage Foundation, a Capitol Hill think tank chosen for its long-standing opposition to legalizing cannabis.
As dozens of people inside the building pressed up against windows and watched, Eidinger showed a mason jar with two ounces of cannabis in it – the legal possession limit – and a baggie with rolling papers and a bud inside. He then asked for a volunteer from his followers to actually sit down in Sessions office, take the baggie, roll a joint, and challenge the Capitol police to arrest them. It was to be a planned act of civil disobedience.
Nobody in the assembled crowd stepped up. Not Nikki Poe, the activist from Philadelphia who spent five days in prison for smoking cannabis on federal land in Philadelphia during one of the legalization protests he helped organize in May, 2013. Not Chris Goldstein, the communications director for Philadelphia NORML, a friend of Poe who was also busted on federal land in Philadelphia for possession during another legalization protest that same year. Goldstein was fined $3,000 for that offense.
With federal charges on their records, both had too much to lose.
Eidinger stashed the cannabis in his car – possession is still illegal on federal land in the District – and the group marched over to the Russell senate office building anyway, and into Sessions office. As it turned out, cannabis went with them.
Phone Homie, a well-known friend of District activists and a local cannabis business entrepreneur, brought in a nice-sized bud and started rolling a joint as Eidinger engaged Jackson in a conversation about the good that cannabis does and the terrible incarceration issues that cannabis creates, showing him pictures that he asked Jackson to share with Sessions.
“But the fact that we brought cannabis into this office, and you guys didn’t arrest us, says a lot about how perceptions about cannabis have changed,” Eidinger told Jackson. “I mean, this is something that has had SWAT teams breaking down doors and taking kids from families. And now it’s here, in this office on federal land, and you are OK with that.”
When Jackson saw Homie with the rolled joint in his mouth, he objected. Jackson had played fair with the group, he said, and this was going too far. Eidinger agreed. “But the fact that we brought cannabis into this office, and you guys didn’t arrest us, says a lot about how perceptions about cannabis have changed,” Eidinger told Jackson. “I mean, this is something that has had SWAT teams breaking down doors and taking kids from families. And now it’s here, in this office on federal land, and you are OK with that.”
Meanwhile, just outside of Sessions’ office, a gaggle of three Capitol police, alerted by one of the staffers, watched and waited ready to be called into action if needed.
The protest ended after about 45 minutes, with Jackson assuring Eidinger that he would give the printed material to Sessions, and reminding the group that Sessions wouldn’t comment on his position regarding legalization because he wasn’t confirmed – yet. (During the ensuing confirmation hearings, Sessions was vague on his position regarding legalization, saying that he would follow federal law).
The meeting ended peacefully. But the fight for legalization from District activists promises to heat up.