Once characterized as lazy, confused burnouts, a new “visage” of marijuana supporters gathered by the hundreds in Dupont Circle in Northwest with outstretched hands while a marijuana advocacy group distributed free joints as part of its #Trump420 protest on Friday, Jan. 20.
As the advocacy group DCMJ handed out more than 9,000 legally-grown marijuana joints, they encouraged recipients to light up 4 minutes and 20 seconds into Trump’s inauguration speech.
Anne Lee, 55, volunteered for the event with her 27-year-old son. The D.C. native and grandmother of three said while she abstains from drinking alcohol she has smoked marijuana for over four decades.
“I’ve smoked most of my life,” she said. “I smoke once every evening before bed.”
Lee, an African American, expressed surprise over the diversity of the group. She said she first agreed to participate after yielding to her son’s insistence but quickly became a vocal supporter.
“We’ve been trying to get weed legalized since I was a teenager; it’s what the people want,” Lee said.
For now, the future of cannabis legalization remains unclear as President Trump and his new administration settle into the White House. He has expressed contradictory views on the issue from an Oct. 2015 campaign speech where he said marijuana legalization should be determined by each state to a Feb. 2016 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly during which he stated that marijuana should not be legal, citing alleged problems in Colorado — a state that has already legalized the drug for recreational use.
Trump’s pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, concerns advocates of marijuana legalization. The Alabama senator has been a harsh critic of marijuana users and legalization efforts.
DCMJ spearheaded Initiative 71, the legislation that legalized marijuana in the District in 2015.
The possession of small amounts of marijuana are legal in the District. Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana and eight states have legalized its recreational use. But the drug remains a controlled substance under federal law.
During rolling sessions and at the protest, volunteers wore Phrygian-style hats, associated with freedom and the pursuit of liberty in early modern Europe.
According to DCMJ founder and #Trump420 organizer, Adam Eidinger, the movement seeks to unite people with various political views to push for marijuana de-regulation and urge the president to maintain the U.S. Department of Justice’s current hands-off approach to local voter-passed marijuana initiatives.
Eidinger says marijuana legalization should be recognized as a non-partisan issue that allows for social justice reform and substantive business opportunities.
“[Weed] has fans everywhere,” he said.
The group’s original goal of distributing 4,200 joints quickly surpassed that number with an outpouring of support from other advocacy groups including some Trump supporters.
Jessica Mason, 25, admits she seems like the typical all-American girl and less of the stereotyped marijuana user. Her blonde hair, glasses and office attire make her seem like an unlikely marijuana advocate but she has worked for a private District-based cannabis club for months.
“One of the best features of the cannabis issue is that it brings so many diverse people together,” Mason said. “We are all members of one community and our events are always peaceful. When alcohol is involved there’s always a rise in anger and hostility.”
Eidinger said alcohol prohibition created underground integration and brought races together as many sought refuge from the temperance movement.
“Today, prohibition of marijuana brings the races together. It brings people of various races, ages and genders,” he said.