Members of Congress won't have trouble finding a joint to celebrate 4/20 this year. From noon until 4:20 PM ET (of course) on April 20th, members of DCMJ - the activist group that helped legalize recreational marijuana in Washington, D.C. back in 2014 - will be handing out free joints to members of Congress, Congressional staffers, credentialed journalists, support staff and Capital Hill employees who are 21 or older. All they have to do is present their government I.D. and they'll get two free spliffs.
"We have rolled over 1,000 so far and should have approximately 1,227 joints by Thursday," Nikolas R. Schiller - Co-Founder and Director of Communications for DCMJ - told Civilized via email. "We have [a] couple dozen volunteers who will hand out the joints in order to keep in compliance with the 2-ounce possession limit.
But there is a string attached to those free joints. DCMJ is staging the event to put pressure on Congress to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment - a federal budget rider that prevents the Department of Justice and the DEA from using any money to raid state-legalized medical marijuana programs in America.
Right now, cannabis is still federally prohibited for medicinal as well as recreational use throughout the country. But the feds can't prosecute state-legalized medical marijuana industries because of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which expires April 28. So unless it's renewed, the 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana would be vulnerable to prosecution.
“Americans don’t want a crackdown on legal cannabis - they want Congress to end cannabis prohibition once and for all,” Adam Eidinger - Co-Founder of DCMJ - said via press release. “Giving adults access to cannabis and individuals and small business owners legal protection in all 50 states is what the American people have been asking for - just take one look at last year’s election [in which four more states legalized recreational marijuana]. It is time Congress remove cannabis from its Schedule I classification - and act. On 420, we’ll celebrate adults making informed choices based on facts, rather than propaganda.”
DCMJ is also calling on Congress to remove the Harris rider from the budget, which prevents the D.C. government from allowing recreational marijuana retailers to open shop in the nation's capital. Congress has obstructed cannabis reform in the District of Columbia ever since it was legalized in 2014. And while residents have won the right to possess, consume and grow marijuana for personal use at home, they still aren't able to go to a licensed store and buy cannabis for recreational use.
The joint giveaway will become historic if there are any takers in Congress. But DCMJ organizers might end up with a lot of unwanted weed by the time 4:20 rolls around on Thursday because Congress is not in session this week. That means most members are back in their districts. But Schiller is confident that there will still be some takers for the free joints. "We are told some Congressional staffers, Hill support staff, and members of the media will take up the offer," he told Civilized. "We’ll see how many do so on Thursday."
So the protest might not be as effective as organizers had hoped, but Schiller stressed that these events nevertheless essential to making gains for cannabis reform in the nation's capital since there is no other way for residents of the District of Columbia to pressure Congress.
"The 672,000 Americans that live in DC do not have Senators or a voting member in the House of Representatives," Schiller said. "While national organizations like NORML are calling for people to contact their members of Congress on 4/20, we can’t and it’s why we must protest. And as long as the Harris Rider remains in the federal budget for the District of Columbia, the DC government cannot pass laws that would allow for the regulation of adult-use stores or cafes."
And even if Congress were in session, there still might not be many taker for the joint giveaway because it's still risky for lawmakers to come out as cannabis consumers. Right now, only one sitting congressperson has admitted to using marijuana. And it's none other than Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) - the same congressman whose names appears on the budget rider protecting medical marijuana. Last May, Rep. Rohrabacher became the first congressperson to admit to using cannabis while in office.
The revelation occurred while Rohrabacher addressed members of the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws (NORML), who were stunned when the congressman opened up about using a cannabis product that he had purchased at a Hemp Fest in San Bernardino, California.
"It's a candle," the former speechwriter for President Reagan told the NORML reps. "And you light the candle. And a wax is in there. And it melts down. And you rub it on whatever you've got problems with. And you know what: I tried it about two weeks ago. And it's the first time in a year and a half that I had a decent night's sleep because the arthritis pain was gone."
If only the nation's headaches with cannabis prohibition could disappear so easily. But that will likely take many more years of hard work and activists know it. That's probably why the DCMJ has called its joint giveaway "1st Annual Congressional #JointSession." There will definitely be at least a few more protests like this before the federal government finally reforms its outdated marijuana laws.