Citing House Committee on Ethics rules, Amber Talley, the legislative director, sheepishly put the pipe down and said she couldn’t accept it, though noted she “appreciated the sentiment.” (She may have also opted to forgo the pipe because drug paraphernalia is illegal on federal property.)
Eidinger and a handful of other city activists crammed in to Chaffetz’s office on Capitol Hill dressed in colonial garb Tuesday to protest what they feel is the congressman’s strong-armed interference with local D.C. matters.
Chaffetz sent Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) a foreboding letter before marijuana legalization went into effect, warning her to halt legalization or face “very severe consequences,” including arrest.
“We are the last colonists in America,” said Woodrow Landfair, one of the protesters, alluding to D.C.’s lack of budget autonomy and voting representation in Congress.
These sorts of protests from local activists are not that unusual on Capitol Hill these days; Nikolas Schiller, director of communications for the cannabis campaign, estimates that he’s worn his colonial costume around 20 times over the last decade. Last year, Eidinger and his crew staged a sit-in at then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office and a fake “consitutent service day” at Rep. Andy Harris’s (R-Md.) office. Harris has been a leading advocate for a measure inserted into a federal budget bill that prohibits the city from spending tax money to enact the marijuana initiative.
Chaffetz was leading a House committee hearing Tuesday and wasn’t in his office, but protesters aired their local grievances to the five staff members present, saying that if the congressman wants to actually represent D.C., he has to do more than just try and block the city’s voter-approved marijuana law. One protester complained about the city’s pot holes, another about limited bus route options, and another about D.C. high school graduation rates.
“If he’s going to represent D.C., then he’s going to have to undertake issues that he didn’t expect,” said James Jones, the communication director of DC Vote, an organization advocating for equal rights for D.C. If he wants to have sway over D.C. policy, Jones said Chaffetz should run for D.C. Council or mayor.
The staff invited Eidinger and the others to schedule a sit down meeting with the office at a later date and, at that time, they will determine if they can accept the pipe as a gift.
The protesters left and, flanked by just as many media members, walked to Chaffetz’s hearing, quietly sitting for a few minutes in the back until it concluded. Afterward, one reporter asked Chaffetz if he had anything to the D.C. activists.
“Welcome to Congress,” Chaffetz said as he walked out of the room, not acknowledging the large, handmade “peace pipe” that was being offered to him.