Federal prosecutors have dropped charges against six of the eight people arrested during a marijuana giveaway near the U.S. Capitol.
The U.S. attorney’s office said Friday that it would pursue misdemeanor charges only against two men who had more than 2 ounces of pot on them. Possession of up to 2 ounces for personal use is legal in the District of Columbia, although it remains illegal under federal law.
The men were arrested Thursday near the Capitol during a demonstration by pot legalization activists who were giving away free joints. Both have been released from custody.
One was Adam Eidinger, who led the ballot initiative that made pot legal in Washington. Eidinger told AP that the dropped charges indicate that police either “screwed up” or made the arrests simply to silence a lawful demonstration. He also disputed the allegation that he had more than 2 ounces of pot.
“What is this, Russia? This is how Russia acts. That’s what they do to activists in other countries when they are trying to silence them,” Eidinger said. “It’s going to come out that I didn’t have more than 2 ounces on me and it will all clear up and we’ll probably sue these police for unlawful arrests. What else can we do?”
The U.S. attorney’s office said Eidinger was ordered to stay away from the Capitol grounds, but Eidinger disputed that, saying he was only barred from the intersection where he was arrested. He plans to participate in a previously scheduled “smoke-in” outside the Capitol on Monday afternoon. Smoking pot in public remains illegal in Washington and activists say they are prepared to be arrested during that demonstration.
Arrests made at 4/20 protest
The arrests during Thursday’s pot giveaway were unexpected because it’s legal to possess small amounts of pot and give it away for free in the District of Columbia. The demonstration was held on city land in an attempt to comply with the law. Prosecutors later filed charges against only two of those who were arrested.
The arrests occurred on the day known as 4/20, considered a national holiday by pot enthusiasts who held public smoke-outs around the United States.
Possession of up to 2 ounces of pot for recreational use is legal in the nation’s capital under a referendum approved by two-thirds of city voters in 2014. Congress did not block the referendum from taking effect, but it did bar the city from taxing or regulating the drug or allowing it to be sold legally. Giving pot away, however, is legal.
Thursday’s demonstration was held on city land rather than federal land in an attempt to comply with that law. Marijuana is also legal in eight states, and the point of the giveaway was to call on federal authorities to respect local cannabis laws.