Seven people were arrested on marijuana charges near the U.S. Capitol on Thursday as they participated in a pot giveaway aimed at pressuring Congress to legalize the drug.
Three were arrested on charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and four were charged with possession, said Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Capitol Police.
She said the seven had been arrested after police witnessed them distributing marijuana to passers-by at the intersection of First and Constitution.
“Under federal law, it is unlawful to possess marijuana,” Malecki said.
The pot giveaway was organized by DCMJ, a pro-legalization group based in Washington.
Nikolas Schiller, co-founder of the group, said the pot giveaway was for Capitol Hill staffers and the media. He said the seven arrested had been on D.C. land, not federal land.
“We firmly believe that these politically motivated arrests were directly ordered by the U.S. Capitol Police chief in an attempt to suppress Americans’ right to free speech and peaceful demonstration — an unlawful violation of our most basic civil liberties,” Schiller said.
The group plans a “smoke-in” at the Capitol at noon on Monday.
The arrests came on April 20, or 4/20, the unofficial national holiday for backers of marijuana legalization.