White House

Of all the festivities planned for the Trump inauguration, the pot giveaway is unique

Prepping for inaugural pot protest

DC marijuana (DCMJ), a pro-marijuana legalization group, plans to "gift" 4,000 joints on inauguration day on the streets of Washington, D.C., encouraging the public to light them up at the 4:20 mark of the new Trump administration. Marijuana activ
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DC marijuana (DCMJ), a pro-marijuana legalization group, plans to "gift" 4,000 joints on inauguration day on the streets of Washington, D.C., encouraging the public to light them up at the 4:20 mark of the new Trump administration. Marijuana activ

As official Washington makes last-minute plans for Inauguration Day, Adam Eidinger has some preparations of his own: He needs to make sure that 4,200 joints are hand-rolled and good to go by 8 a.m. on Friday.

4,200The number of free joints that will be passed out at Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., at 8 a.m. Friday

It could produce some interesting visuals for Trump’s big day: When Eidinger and 41 of his friends pass out the marijuana, they’ll line up on a sidewalk near Dupont Circle, right next to a small park where pro-Trump bikers will hold a rally, called “Let America Hear Us, Roar for Trump.”

“You can walk up and say, `Make America Great Again’ and be a total Donald Trump supporter – we’re going to treat you exactly the same,” said Eidinger, who led the push to legalize marijuana in Washington, D.C. “We want them to be like, `Hey, those marijuana people are cool.’ This is about public relations and really being smart about what you do as a community.”

We want them to be like, `Hey, those marijuana people are cool.’ This is about public relations and really being smart about what you do as a community.

Adam Eidinger, Washington, D.C, leader of the pro-legalization group DCMJ

While organizers of the pot giveaway hope to lure in some new supporters for the growing legalization movement, they also want to send a pointed message to the 45th president: Don’t let Attorney General-designate Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, a longtime anti-marijuana crusader, call the shots on U.S. pot policy.

No one’s certain exactly what to expect.

Some of the marijuana activists said they may go to the National Mall to light their joints at 4 minutes and 20 seconds – 420 is a reference to pot – into Trump’s speech, but they could be arrested since the mall is on federal property. Early talk of a mass smoke-in on the mall has all but faded. And some said they’ll probably just go home and light up as they watch Trump on TV.

The pot giveaway is aimed at wooing new backers for the nation's pot legalization movement, but organizers also want to send a message to the 45th president: Don’t let Attorney General-designate Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, a longtime anti-marijuana crusader, call the shots on U.S. pot policy.

While Trump has said that he would leave the question of legalization to individual states, his choice of Sessions to lead the U.S. Justice Department has created panic among pot backers across the country.

Sessions angered legalization supporters last April when he called marijuana “dangerous” and said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” And in a speech on the Senate floor last year, Sessions criticized President Barack Obama for not being tough enough on marijuana, saying the U.S. could be at the beginning of “another surge in drug use like we saw in the ’60s and ’70s.”

When the issue came up during his confirmation hearing last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions said that Congress should set marijuana policy and the attorney general should enforce the law.

“I think one obvious concern is that the United States Congress has made the possession of marijuana in every state, and distribution of it, an illegal act. . . . We should do our job and enforce laws effectively as we’re able,” Sessions said.

I think one obvious concern is that the United States Congress has made the possession of marijuana in every state, and distribution of it, an illegal act. … We should do our job and enforce laws effectively as we’re able.

Attorney General-designate Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week

If the Senate votes to confirm Sessions, as expected, many legalization backers fear that he’ll lead a crackdown against the eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana and the 28 states that allow the drug to be used as medicine.

“It feels like a particular betrayal when the man who’s one of the biggest opponents of marijuana is now going to be the highest law-enforcement guy in the land,” said Tyler Hopkins, who recently moved from Alabama to Washington, D.C. “I’ve been arrested multiple times for marijuana, and to move to a place that’s more accepting of my personal choices and my needs is smart.”

It feels like a particular betrayal when the man who’s one of the biggest opponents of marijuana is now going to be the highest law-enforcement guy in the land.

Tyler Hopkins, marijuana activist from Washington, D.C

Hopkins said he’s scheduled to appear in federal court on Jan. 25 on a charge of disrupting Congress, accused of violating a “no standing” rule for those in the audience at Sessions’ confirmation hearing.

“I didn’t get to see much of it. . . . I needed to adjust my pants,” he said.

Last Thursday, Hopkins and other legalization backers dropped by for a joint-rolling session at Eidinger’s home in northwest Washington, D.C.

With 4,200 joints to roll by Friday, pot backers have been hosting similar joint-rolling sessions throughout the city in recent weeks, taking care to hand-roll every single joint for an event that’s a good bet to draw a large crowd.

“They smoke better, they burn better,” explained Nikolas Schiller, who co-founded the pro-legalization group DCMJ with Eidinger.

Schiller, who figured he’s rolled at least 100 joints for the giveaway, is hoping that Trump moves to take marijuana off the federal government’s list of Schedule 1 drugs, something that Obama refused to do. Schedule 1 drugs are deemed to be the worst by the federal government, those with no medical value, similar to LSD and heroin.

“The president has the authority to start the rescheduling process if he wanted to,” Schiller said. “Obama never really followed through.”

RachelRamone Donlan, who traveled to Washington from Massachusetts, rolled her joints on the front page of the Washington Post, sprinkling her pot – a sativa strain – on a color photograph of Trump on the cover of the newspaper.

She said she was concerned about “stuff that’s going on in the news right now,” particularly with the appointment of Sessions. And she said she’s not sure what to expect from Trump.

Several states have adopted new rules on the use of recreational and medicinal marijuana in several states, with more than half now allowing for the latter. Is this the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition?

“We don’t know what to worry about with him – that’s the scariest,” Donlan said. “We have no idea what’s going to happen at this point.”

Regardless of what transpires on Friday, the pot giveaway has already generated plenty of national publicity for Eidinger and his group, and he’s expecting more. He said he’ll arrive early, at 7:30 a.m., to begin media interviews.

Eidinger said leaders of the biker group contacted him quickly when they heard they’d be passing out the free pot at Dupont Circle. He said they can drop by for the festivities if they want to cross the street and come over at any point.

“They’re welcome to come and take a joint or two,” Eidinger said. “We’re not discriminating.”

Rob Hotakainen: 202-383-6154, @HotakainenRob

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