Protesters are on the move in downtown D.C. again Wednesday evening. This time they are joined by demonstrators furious with Congress over a spending bill that blocks the district from legalizing marijuana.
In November, D.C. residents voted in favor of making it legal to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, grow up to six plants, and share (but not sell) up to an ounce of marijuana to anyone 21 or older. The measure also makes it legal to use or sell drug paraphernalia related to marijuana.
Late Tuesday Congress reached a $1.1 trillion spending deal that bars the district from legalizing marijuana.
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“This is not about marijuana, though, this is not about drug policy,” said DC Vote Executive Director Kim Perry. “This is about local democracy.”
Activists took that message to Sen. Harry Reid’s office Wednesday. They occupied Reid’s reception are for several hours until a Reid policy advisor agreed to meet with them.
The meeting proved unsuccessful, so the activists planned more protests.
Supporters of legalizing marijuana joined Code Pink demonstrators Wednesday evening outside the Department of Justice, where mothers of victims of police killings are also protesting.
From there, the marijuana activists marched on the sidewalk to Capitol Hill chanting, “We voted. It counted. You must respect our ballot,” while Code Pink marched to the White House.
D.C. police implemented rolling road closures as the demonstrators marched along Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues in downtown D.C.
Meanwhile Perry, of DC Vote, was the last activist waiting for Reid. U.S. Capitol Police escorted her out of the Hart Senate Office Building after the Senate adjourned, but she said she'll return Thursday morning.
Marijuana activists say the issue of race relations and police and Congress blocking a local election are linked.
“This issue is directly related to the national conversation that’s going on about policing and race relations,” said Adam Eidinger of the DC Cannabis Campaign. “To think that overturning an election is going to help that conversation is completely wrong.”
If Congress does vote to block D.C.'s election, some activists want district officials to defy Congress and legalize marijuana anyway.
“I think that the language that is in the omibus bill is inherently ambiguous,” said Dr. Malik Burnett of the DC Cannabis Campaign. “It is unclear as to whether or not the initiative is directly blocked by this effort. I think that the council members and city government should stand with the people.”