D.C. Cannabis Campaign, a marijuana advocacy group, organized a march from Dupont Circle to the White House on Sept. 24 in what organizers hailed as an act of civil disobedience. The protest, which mirrored a similar event held last April, involved a mass “smoke out” on federal property in order to get President Barack Obama to take action toward legalizing cannabis.
Currently, marijuana, along with drugs like heroin, LSD and ecstasy, is listed as a Schedule I drug according to the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are defined as having high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.
The group, also known as DCMJ, was responsible for drafting Ballot Initiative 71, which was subject to a Districtwide referendum passed by 65 percent of the vote in November 2015 and enacted into law in late February 2015. The law prohibits the sale and public consumption of marijuana, but allows for limited personal growth, consumption and possession by those over 21 years of age.
DCMJ Chairman Adam Eidinger said the protest brought attention to incarceration of 6 million people for marijuana use.
“Protest needs to be public and we want the White House to know we are not satisfied,” Eidinger wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It’s a shaming in public that makes marching and speaking out a protest.”
However, just last month, Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Chuck Rosenberg cited the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s research on marijuana as a reason to keep it classified as a Schedule I drug. Rosenberg wrote a letter Aug. 11 in response to Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and New Mexico nurse practitioner Bryan Krumm, who petitioned the federal government to reconsider their classification of the drug.
“It does not have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, there is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision, and it has a high potential for abuse,” Rosenberg wrote. “lf the scientific understanding about marijuana changes — and it could change — then the decision could change. But we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands. It certainly would be odd to rely on science when it suits us and ignore it otherwise.”
The theme of the protest, “March of the Clones,” referenced the evil organization in “Star Wars,” which Eidinger said parallels the agents complicit in the prohibition of marijuana.
“Old political leaders stuck in the prohibition mindset, big pharma and police all need to get over it,” Eidinger wrote. “We are running people’s lives with criminalization and it needs to stop for America to heal.”
The event began with a rally in Dupont Circle in which speakers from DCMJ as well as other lobbying groups including the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition spoke about the benefits of legalizing cannabis. Free homegrown marijuana plants in red Solo cups were distributed to those in attendance.
The protesters later marched 1 mile along Connecticut Avenue to the White House where, at 4:20 p.m., participants smoked marijuana. Though protesters had been urged to bring cannabis within the legal limit of 2 ounces or less, possession on federal property such as the White House remains a punishable offense.
Gabriel Shapiro, who attended the event, said it promoted issues greater than just the ability to get intoxicated.
“Remember that this is about humans enjoying life and having fun, but it’s also very importantly about racism and the living hell that a skewed portion of our population has to experience, through the generations,” Shapiro wrote in an email to The Hoya. “This is about getting high but it’s also about addressing our racist government structure and the unfettered exploitation of humans and the planet.”