Gen. James B. McPherson’s statue overlooks the NORML demonstration on Tuesday. (Julie Zauzmer/The Washington Post)

In the staid federal park a few blocks from the White House, the statue of Civil War Gen. James B. McPherson overlooks something different today.

McPherson sits on his high horse just above a tent advertising MagicalButter, a tool for making homemade herbal tinctures, including edible marijuana products.

The festive atmosphere Tuesday in McPherson Square — with hemp lip balm on sale, free samples of hemp tea and Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” wafting through the park — is part of a demonstration demanding greater access to medical marijuana for military veterans.

“Marijuana is legal in D.C., and the VA hospitals do not currently offer it to our veterans instead of psychotropic drugs,” Jessica Crawford, a Northeast Washington resident, earnestly told people passing through the park, which sits diagonally across the street from the Department of Veterans Affairs. She shared statistics about the addictive nature of other VA-offered drugs, and the number of veterans who suffer from conditions that might be eased by medical marijuana.

Crawford said that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety herself. The edible marijuana products that her boyfriend cooked up help her feel better. Now the couple sells their marijuana lollipops, a business they call Loud Pops DC.

Lee Hopcraft, a volunteer for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that the D.C. chapter of NORML organized the demonstration, which began at midnight. He claimed about 50 people slept outside in tents during the early hours of Tuesday morning, and the group will walk to the White House to demonstrate there at the close of the event.


Alexandria Fernandez, 23, sniffs hemp balm in McPherson Square before trying it on her lips. (Julie Zauzmer/The Washington Post)

In the mid-afternoon, more than a dozen people were milling around the muddy park. A few tourists approached despite the drizzly weather. Alexandria Fernandez, 23, a student from Reno, Nev., who is in town to visit a friend in the military who just got back from deployment, was intrigued.

“Can I help? Write my name down?” she asked Hopcraft.

“There’s a petition at the MagicalButter tent,” he said.

She signed, then tried out the hemp lip balm at another tent, which came in flavors including “crunky monkey” and “vanilla dreamz.”

She approved. “Super glossy,” she said after rubbing it on her lips. “Really slippery.”