Editor’s note: This story was updated on Friday, April 21, 2017 at 3:06 p.m.
Two individuals arrested in Washington, DC, on Thursday for participating in a 4/20-related joint giveaway now face federal charges for allegedly possessing more cannabis than allowed under local law. Officials agreed not to press charges against another half-dozen legalization advocates who handed out pre-rolled joints to draw attention to cannabis reform.
Eidinger, the event's lead organizer, allegedly possessed 2.06 oz.
US Attorneys in the District of Columbia on Friday filed charges against two activists, Adam Eidinger and William Angolia, for possessing more than the DC-allowed limit of two ounces. Eidinger, the event’s lead organizer, allegedly possessed 2.06 oz. of cannabis, according to charging documents. Angolia allegedly had 2.405 oz.
Organizers posted updates via Twitter on Friday. The news was first reported by legalization advocate Tom Angell and US News reporter Steven Nelson.
The misdemeanor charges carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
DCMJ, the District’s most visible cannabis advocacy group, had been planning its First Annual Congressional Joint Session on Capitol Hill for weeks. Members banded together to roll 1,227 joints—in honor of House Resolution 1227, which would end federal marijuana prohibition—then handed out said joints to congressional staffers and members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
Thursday’s festivities were abruptly shut down, however, when District Police arrested one protester after another.
Some arrests were more visible than others, although the charges against each protester were initially unclear, as noted by a US News reporter on the scene, Steven Nelson.
Adam Eidinger was the fourth to be arrested. Eidinger is the leader of DCMJ and authored Initiative 71, which legalized possession and home cultivation of cannabis in Washington, DC.
Elizabeth Croydon, a longtime cannabis activist and recent vocal opponent of Jeff Sessions, was taken into custody for participating in the protest, along with a fellow protester.
Nelson continued to question law enforcement about the charges against those under arrest. It appears that distribution, rather than possession, is the determining factor in placing protesters in custody, although as Nelson points out, both possession and distribution are illegal on federal grounds.
Natalie DeLeon, a cannabis activist and Congressional candidate hopeful for 2020, was arrested next, in a rather dramatic fashion — a still-burning joint was plucked from her hand mid-speech, and she was placed in handcuffs.
With that, the activists began to scatter amid shouts of “Cops! Cops!” The surreal scene screams of past days of prohibition, and only highlights the problems that still remain in spite of legalization.
Seven protesters have been arrested in total. While law enforcement officials were vague about the actual charges that protesters will face, federal law treats the distribution of small amounts of cannabis as a misdemeanor possession charge with a maximum of 1 year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
The protest ended early, although Nikolas Schiller, a co-founder of DCMJ, assured reporters on the scene: “We will be suing the hell out of US Capitol Police.“