- The Washington Times - Monday, April 24, 2017

U.S. Capitol Police on Monday arrested four marijuana activists who had staged a smoke-in demonstration on the Capitol’s lawn to call for the nationwide legalization of cannabis.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki said officers arrested two men and two women, who were charged with possession and taken to police headquarters for processing.

Monday’s incident followed Thursday’s arrests of eight pot advocates who were handing out free joints in front of the Capitol on D.C. property. Though possessing small amounts of pot is legal in the city, that area is patrolled by Capitol Police, who charged those activists with possession and possession with intent to distribute.

Both protests were organized by DCMJ, a local advocacy group that calls for legalizing and regulating the sale and use of marijuana.

Monday’s demonstration took place on the lawn on the southeast side of the Capitol. Between 20 and 30 activists gathered there with signs and flags, wearing apparel decorated with images of cannabis leaves.

The demonstrators spoke for an hour about the positive effects marijuana has had on their lives. In a kind of ceremony, they said Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Rastafarian prayers over the marijuana before lighting the joints.

As the activists lit up, Capitol Police calmly moved in to detain the smokers.

DCMJ lobbyist Jessica Laycock said the religious component was performed, in part, to highlight freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

DCMJ co-founder Adam Eidinger reiterated his group’s goal of the District exercising home rule when it comes to marijuana.

“Congress is immorally telling us that D.C. doesn’t have home rule anymore when it comes to marijuana,” Mr. Eidinger told The Washington Times before the event. “Andy Harris’s amendment is blocking D.C. from writing its own laws.”

In 2014, D.C. voters approved Initiative 71 that allowed the recreational use of marijuana. However, the Harris rider — proposed by Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland Republican — blocks the D.C. Council from taxing and regulating the sale of the drug.

City residents may grow, possess and consume a small amount of cannabis only in their homes.

DCMJ also is calling on Congress to reaffirm the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which blocks the federal government from enforcing marijuana laws in states where the drug is legal for medicinal use. The amendment was first introduced in 2014 and has to be renewed with each subsequent budget.

It’s unclear the importance President Trump puts on marijuana legislation, having expressed tacit support for medicinal use of the drug during his campaign.

However, key members of his administration are outspoken against the drug.

At a speech at George Washington University last week, Homeland Security Security John Kelly called marijuana a “potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs.”

Speaking at an event in Richmond last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he rejects the idea that “America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store.”

“And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana — so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful,” Mr. Sessions said. “Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, we saw how campaigns stressing prevention brought down drug use and addiction. We can do this again.”

Twenty-nine states and the District allow for the use of medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana is allowed in the District, Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington.

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