Prosecutors dropped charges against six of eight activists arrested Thursday on Capitol Hill at an event where free joints were distributed to congressional staffers.
Authorities on Friday said they would continue to pursue drug possession charges against two people, Adam Eidinger, 43, of Northwest Washington, and William Angolia, 60, of Southeast Washington. The two men are part of a group pushing for further marijuana legalization.
Eidinger is the head of DCMJ, an activist group formerly known as the D.C. Cannabis Campaign that organized the giveaway. He was arrested for having 78 rolled marijuana cigarettes, amounting to 2.06 ounces of marijuana, in a clear zipper bag, according to charging papers.
All eight people arrested in the incident were initially charged under federal law, which makes any marijuana possession a crime. But prosecutors chose to pursue the cases against Eidinger and Angolia under D.C. law, which allows people to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and to give away small amounts.
During the event, the participants said they believed they had done nothing to violate D.C. law.
Eidinger repeated that contention after his Friday hearing in D.C. Superior Court.
“I was on D.C. land. I am definitely fighting this,” he said. “District law says I can possess marijuana anywhere in Washington, D.C., and the Capitol is within Washington, D.C.
“This was an unlawful arrest. At first they told us they were arresting us under federal charges. And then they reduced it to local charges. It’s still unlawful.”
In court Friday, Angolia wore a polo shirt that read “DC Cannabis Co-op Club.” He is accused of loading two six-foot-tall marijuana plants into his SUV during the protest, according to court papers. Police also found two marijuana cigarettes weighing 0.005 ounces each inside the SUV as well as two containers with green, leafy substances, the documents state.
At Thursday’s giveaway, on the marijuana-themed “holiday” 4/20, members of Congress, congressional staff, Capitol Hill support staff and credentialed journalists older than 21 were invited to take two free joints.
The “1st Annual Joint Session,” as it was called, was intended to be a less-confrontational prelude to Monday, when activists plan to illegally smoke marijuana on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Instead, eight people were arrested by U.S. Capitol Police, possibly setting up a showdown over whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who said in February “we don’t need to be legalizing marijuana” — intends to enforce marijuana laws in places where the drug has been legalized. But, at least in this case, prosecutors chose to rely on D.C. law, not federal law.
Nikolas Schiller, co-founder of DCMJ, said he believes Capitol police targeted the group to thwart their planned protest on Monday. He argued that authorities improperly included the weight of rolling paper when weighing the marijuana.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case.
In an interview Friday afternoon, Angolia said he is a supporter of President Trump. Even after spending the night in jail, he said he doubts that Sessions and the administration would bother prosecuting marijuana cases.
“They don’t want to spend their money on cannabis,” he said. “They’ve got more important things to do. I might be totally wrong, but that’s how I’m calling it.”