Free pot giveaway leads to arrests near U.S. Capitol

'Faces of Marijuana Prohibition' Event Held on Capitol Hill

Thursday's official marijuana holiday, dubbed 420 by enthusiasts, is reaching new highs (get it?) this year.

Advocacy group DCMJ, which spearheaded legalization of cannabis in D.C., is leading the free giveaway.

Of the eight weed activists arrested during the joint giveaway near Capitol Hill on Thursday, two of them are now facing possession charges-though they're viewing them with a glass half-full.

In January, New York State Senator Liz Krueger introduced the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act into the state legislature, which would make New York the ninth state in the country to legalize the recreational use of cannabis (not including the District of Columbia). They said members of the group will set up just off Capitol grounds and pass out joints of locally grown marijuana rolled by hand in the home base of DCMJ on Embassy Row in Washington. "We have [a] couple dozen volunteers who will hand out the joints in order to keep in compliance with the 2-ounce possession limit".

The demonstration Thursday afternoon was intended as a protest against federal interference with states that have legal marijuana. The amendment expires on April 28. Possession and distribution of marijuana is illegal under federal law, while the DC government allows possession in small quantities.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly recently called marijuana "a potentially unsafe gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs" - a view long held by drug warriors despite scant evidence of its validity.

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"At first, I thought weren't going to get anyone, but there has been a number of Congressional staff that told us they will come".

Four members of the House of Representatives, two Democrats and two Republicans, announced the formation of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus in February to help integrate federal and state laws governing weed.

This year's 420 party follows successful legalization campaigns in California, Nevada, Maine and MA, which joined Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington as states that allow recreational marijuana.

The event wasn't meant to break any laws, Mr. Eidinger said, adding that he had consulted with a lawyer about the event's legality.

According to a press release on the DCMJ website, attendees of the "1st Annual Joint Session" are entitled to receive "two free marijuana joints".

Philadelphia's 420 celebrations likely won't be as high profile. So unless it's renewed, the 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana would be vulnerable to prosecution. In Alaska, though, regulators put a damper on promotions, warning retail shops about an "alarming amount of social media advertisements for 4/20 celebrations" that violate state rules against certain activities, such as games or competitions, that encourage pot sales.