DCMJ Activists Protest Outside HUD for Public Housing Rights

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The activists with DCMJ once again took to the streets of the Capitol, this time handing out grams of cannabis today in a protest known as “Haunted by HUD.”

HUD, or the Department of Housing and Urban Development, issued a memo in 2014 reiterating that the use of marijuana, even for medical reasons, is prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act; therefore, cannabis use is prohibited in any federally assisted housing or public housing. If someone living in public housing is using a restricted substance such as cannabis, the owners have the discretion “to terminate the tenancy of the household.”

The protest is directly related to a notice received by DC residents of the Stoneridge Apartments earlier this year. The notice advised inhabitants that the use of marijuana will be treated as a breach of the lease agreement and result in a 30-day notice to “Cure or Quit,” followed by a suit for a breach of lease.

Organized by the illustrious Adam Eidinger, author of Initiative 71, the demonstration began at 11:30 a.m. on the street in front of the HUD building in a Halloween-themed protest, with activists dressed as Indiana Jones and Powerpuff Girls.

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Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It” played while activists handed out individually packaged grams of cannabis to anyone who approached. According to Eidinger, the group handed out a total of 420 grams to various onlookers and passersby, including multiple federal employees on their lunch break.

The cannabis was provided by the newly formed Humane Urban Growers, or HUG, a group comprised of many local DC growers who shared a portion of their crop for the #HauntedbyHUD cannabis giveaway. Some activists also provided edibles, including brownies and lemon cookies that were deemed “amazing” by the DCMJ crew.

Veteran cannabis advocate Natalie DeLeon described the event as “a really beautiful gathering of the District of Columbia community in front of HUD.”

“There was a lot of federal presence, which I was a little wary about after what happened on 4/20, but they just observed and stayed in the background, giving some of us a little anxiety,” DeLeon said. “I think it was a really great speak-out. A lot of people said some beautiful things, calling out the racist policies that are tied with cannabis prohibition.”

The last DCMJ protest happened on April 20 and didn’t go quite according to plan. While handing out joints, Eidinger and five other activists were arrested on charges of possessing a controlled substance on federal property. Although the charges were eventually dropped, the arrests clearly made an impact on the group.

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“When we gave away joints back in April, the government seized over 600 joints from us,” Eidinger explained. “This time, we decided not to bring joints, but to actually bring little baggies of weed and have the law printed on them. It actually says on the bag that this is Initiative-71 compliant; to share with adults only; how much you’re allowed to possess, under two ounces; and it talks about gifting, not selling it; and it talks about not using it in public.”

Eidinger clarified the change of heart. “We’ve kind of evolved a little bit in the standard of giving it away. We’re warning people, hey, don’t use this in public because, I think in the Trump era, this is the second time we’ve done a giveaway since the inauguration, and the last one did not go well.”

Members of the DCMJ group, overhearing Eidinger’s comment, laughed.

“At least four of us right here were arrested last time,” he chuckled good-naturedly.

“It is kind of historic—this is the first protest, as far as we know, that anyone has ever done about public housing and marijuana policy,” Eidinger told Leafly. “We were talking about opioids, too, saying, look, it’s drug policy, it’s not just marijuana policy. We’re saying it doesn’t make sense to evict people who have a drug problem…if they’re not being a nuisance, why should they live in fear?”