Adam Eidinger had been sending letters to the White House asking for a meeting since he led a successful ballot measure fight to legalize pot in the nation’s capital.
The letters asked for a “Bud Summit” with President Obama’s drug policy advisers to talk about removing pot from the nation’s list of most dangerous drugs.
Eidinger, however, never received a reply until he tried something more aggressive. He organized an illegal smoke-in outside the White House, complete with a 51-foot replica of a marijuana joint painted with the phrase “Obama, Deschedule Cannabis Now!” The protest ended with several dozen activists simultaneously lighting up — and not getting arrested — sending a cloud of marijuana smoke wafting over the north lawn of the White House.
And unlike letters, that, apparently, got the attention of officials inside.
A White House spokesman on Wednesday confirmed that Eidinger and a small group of advocates behind marijuana legalization in the District would meet with White House officials on Monday. The White House confirmed the meeting after Eidinger’s group issued a press release announcing the meeting.
It was not immediately clear if the meeting would be with Obama’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has done similar outreach with national groups lobbying for less stringent marijuana laws, or if it would be with higher level White House officials.
Eidinger declined to name the official he was invited to meet with, but he cast the meeting as historic, and a hopeful sign that the Obama administration may advocate for changing marijuana’s official federal designation as a Schedule 1 substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Even though marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in Colorado, Washington state, the District and Alaska, it remains classified under federal law as on par with heroin and ecstasy.
That makes possession a felony in the eyes of the federal government and makes it difficult to do clinical research.
Eidinger, a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) in the Democratic presidential contest, used national exposure from the White House smoke-in this month to urge Obama to take a more active role in marijuana reform to help unite the Democratic Party behind likely nominee Hillary Clinton.
Sanders wants recreational use of marijuana legalized. But Eidinger wants Obama to begin the process of reclassifying marijuana before he leaves office, because he thinks it would provide political cover for Clinton to finish the job should she win the presidency in November.
Eidinger also tried to guilt and embarrass Obama into action. Fliers announcing this month’s event at the White House said the event was being held not on the typical national day of action over marijuana policy, April 20, but earlier, because of the president.
“Due to popular demand, we’re rescheduling 4/20 this year to 4/2 because Obama’s been a BIG ZERO on cannabis reform,” said the fliers printed by Eidinger’s group, DCMJ.
In Eidinger’s last letter to Obama officials before the smoke-in, however, he offered to call off the spectacle if the president agreed to sit down with marijuana advocates.
“As a former cannabis (and current?) user, you know firsthand that cannabis does not belong in the Controlled Substances Act,” Eidinger wrote.
He called for Obama to agree to a “Bud Summit, where leaders of the cannabis reform movement are invited to the White House to discuss steps you can take to end the failed War on Drugs you inherited as president.”
The White House press office did not respond to inquiries about Eidinger’s letter then. But on Wednesday, spokesman Frank Benenati confirmed a meeting was scheduled for Monday.
Eidinger credited the smoke-in and its “global attention” for pushing the White House to meet on Monday.