Charges have been dropped against a weed activist who was arrested earlier this year for handing out joints at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Adam Eidinger, a local activist for cannabis legalization, was originally arrested on April 20. At the time of the arrest, he was found in possession of 78 individual joints. The joints were part of a protest.
Locally Legal or Federally Unlawful?
On the day of the arrest, members of the pro-legalization group DCMJ handed out free pre-rolled joints to congressional staffers. Even though the protest took place at Capitol Hill, it was technically under local D.C. jurisdiction.
That’s important because in Washington, D.C. it is legal to carry up to two ounces of cannabis. Similarly, it’s legal for adults to gift small amounts of weed to other adults.
Despite this, weed activist Eidinger and eight other protesters, were all detained by officers from the Capitol Police force.
The fact that the arresting officers were part of a federal agency created a kerfuffle over local and federal precedent.
Due to the fact that cannabis has yet to be decriminalized and legalized for recreational use at a federal level, the arrests spurred a debate on whether federal law or local law presided in a court of law.
Out of the eight arrested, only Eidinger and one other weed activist faced charges of misdemeanor possession. Meanwhile, the Drug Enforcement Administration determined whether or not he would be charged with a federal crime.
“To me, this means that they don’t understand that people have a right to give cannabis away in the District and they don’t have a very good legal argument to prosecute them,” Eidinger told reporters.
DEA Rules in Favor of Local Law
In the end, the DEA favored local legislation over federal law. But despite the DEA’s ruling, officials from the Capitol Police force defended their decision.
“Federal laws apply throughout the District of Columbia and the federal law was applied,” wrote Eva Malecki, a spokesperson for the federal agency.
Despite the stance of law enforcement, the Department of Justice dropped charges against Eidinger. The decision was based on the DEA’s judgment.
Many saw the the case as an effort by the Trump Administration—namely Attorney General Jeff Sessions—to make an example of Eidinger. Critics said the arrest was an attempt to reinforce the Administration’s increasingly anti-weed platform.
“This is a clear example of the federal government prosecuting low-level marijuana offenders,” said attorney Mark Goldstone, who represented Eidinger. “From the beginning, this was just bogus, and it took four months to figure out that he had less than two ounces.”
Final Hit: Charges Dropped Against Weed Activist…Or Not?
Despite the court’s ruling, the DCMJ leader isn’t entirely off the hook yet. Eidinger still faces charges from another protest. This one was held only four days after the Capitol Hill demonstration.
According to authorities, he and other demonstrators allegedly—and deliberately—smoked weed on federal property. As of now, his trial is set for September 11 in the District’s Superior Court.