Inspired by Bill Maher lighting up a joint during his Real Time and calling for the national legalization of marijuana, Washington, D.C., cannabis law reform activists have called for a cannabis smoke-out protest in front of the White House on April 2nd. Why 4/2 instead of 4/20 (as originally called for), you may ask? Well, organizers of the protest have deemed the Obama Administration a “zero” on cannabis law reform, so the protest has been rescheduled to 4/2.
The smoke-out protest has been criticized by some activists, notably Tom Angell, told US News: “I’m not sure how smoking marijuana in a public park where children and families are vacationing is supposed to encourage the president to do what we want him to do,” says Tom Angell, chairman of the group Marijuana Majority. “It will likely have the exact opposite effect, as demonstrated by the fact that even some of our strongest allies in Congress are distancing themselves from this stunt.”
I spoke with Adam Eidinger, leader of the Washington, D.C.’s legalization measure and of this protest about criticism from people within the movement, particularly Tom Angell. Adam responded: “Tom is a good friend and I respect his opinion, but when we looked at polling that we did on Twitter and it was 9 to 1 in favor that we needed to do this. We have tried to be respectful, sending many letters to President Obama and he hasn’t responded to us.”
Eidinger made it clear that he is very frustrated with the lack of respect that President Obama, and the Democratic establishment in general, have shown the cannabis community, “We are Democrats that put legalization on the ballot. We would be happy to forgo public smoking if the President agrees to a ‘bud summit’ that brings in cannabis law reform advocates like myself, Tom Angell, Rob Kampia, Ethan Nadelmann and Steph Sherer,” Adam continued. “We won’t be ignored anymore. I’m not the biggest advocate of public use, but for now, this is a tactic that we need because we have been ignored too long. Frankly, we don’t have anything to lose. President Obama should reschedule immediately to Schedule 3 at the worst and immediately pardon all marijuana growers. All of a sudden Democrats have discovered states’ rights on cannabis laws, but that isn’t good enough, we need legalization across the nation.”
I followed up with Tom Angell over Facebook about this planned protest and he had this to add: “I really respect the work Adam and others did to get legalization on the ballot and deliver a strong margin of victory on election day a few years ago. He’s a crafty and dedicated activist, but in this case I fear he might be letting his own pride about being a marijuana consumer get in the way of smart political organizing.”
Tom further stated: “While there’s certainly a role for civil disobedience in social justice movements, you usually protest by committing acts that you think should be legal but aren’t. Allowing the smoking of marijuana in public parks would not be good public policy.”
Normally, I would side with my colleague Tom Angell over my friend Adam Eidinger on a protest like this. Protests such as this can make participants feel good, but can end up counter-productive as it is hard to control large crowds and the media tends to sensationalize the most radical participants. However, after talking to Adam, he may have convinced me that such an action is needed at this time. Eidinger is right to be frustrated and I share his frustration that cannabis legalization, a position favored by a majority of Americans and a supermajority of Democrats, isn’t given the respect it deserves. I hope that this event goes well and it spurs positive action from the Obama Administration.
Below is the press release sent out by rally supporters followed by the most recent letter that Adam Eidinger has sent to President Obama:
White House Rally in Lafayette Square on Saturday, April 2 in Washington, DC Calls for theRescheduling of Cannabis Now
On Saturday, April 2 at 2:00 p.m. in Washington, DC at Lafayette Square located directly north of the White House, leaders, activists, advocacy groups and citizens will gather to demand that President Obama use his authority to reschedule cannabis—now. Why on 4/2? The Obama Administration has been a big zero on cannabis reform, so we are “rescheduling” from 420 to 4/2..
Who: Speakers from DCMJ and other cannabis advocacy groups, along with industry activists, civil leaders and citizens.
What: Emergency Mobilization to Reschedule Cannabis Rally
When: Saturday, April 2 at 2:00 p.m.
**Note: At 4:20 p.m. there will be a mass-consumption of cannabis.
Where: Lafayette Square located directly north of the White House on H Street between 15th and 17th Streets, Washington, DC.
What you can do:
•Click “Going” and invite your friends on DCMJ Facebook page
•Tweet with the hashtag #Reschedule420
•Call National Cannabis Advocacy Organizations to endorse #Reschedule420
•Forward info to your friends
•Volunteer with DCMJ on 4/2 to help things run smoothly
The White House March 8, 2016
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Dear President Obama,
This is our 3rd letter to you in the last two years concerning cannabis reform. DCMJ previously wrote you before Ballot Initiative 71 was voted on in the District of Columbia and after the initiative passed with over 70% of the vote. Unfortunately, we haven’t received a reply from our previous letters. This lack of correspondence is why we are writing you today.
Next month DCMJ is rescheduling the international cannabis day of celebration, April 20 to Saturday, April 2, and making it a protest of your inaction on cannabis reform. We are rescheduling the date to urge you to use your power as the president to reschedule cannabis. As a former cannabis (and current?) user, you know firsthand that cannabis does not belong in the Controlled Substances Act. While thousands of Americans die each each year due to dangerous drugs like heroin, the placement of cannabis in the same category makes a mockery of the Controlled Substances Act and breeds distrust in our law enforcement and our government .
I anticipate hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans will join us at 4:20pm for mass-consumption of cannabis on Pennsylvania Ave. as form of civil disobedience. However, I am willing to call off the mass-consumption of cannabis if you agree to a Bud Summit, where leaders of the cannabis reform movement are invited to the White House to discuss steps you can take to end the failed War on Drugs you inherited as president.
As American citizens of the District of Columbia, we do not have Senators or Representatives to advocate for us in Congress. Thanks to the 23rd amendment to the Constitution, we only have you to speak for us. I am tired of waiting for Congress to reschedule cannabis. They would rather continue the failed War on Drugs instead of actually fixing the problems facing America. DCMJ respectfully urges you to call out their failed leadership and fix a genuine problem that you have the power to fix. No more lives need to be ruined with unethical imprisonment for cannabis-related crimes if you act now.