Freewheeling demonstrators converged outside the White House to urge President Barack Obama to take immediate action and allow greater research and freedom for marijuana users.
Participants in the Reschedule 420 event on Saturday — a reference to marijuana reform — organized by the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, also hoped the president will continue pardoning jailed pot offenders.
Washington residents in 2014 passed a ballot measure known as Initiative 71 to legalize personal marijuana possession. It allowed residents 21 and older to possess up to 2 ounces and to cultivate six marijuana plants at home. But it did not authorize a regulated recreational marijuana industry.
A giant 51-foot inflatable joint was led down H Street to the demonstration site. There were no reported arrests during the rally, although two people were briefly detained.
Event organizer Adam Eidinger said he finds hints of cannabis in the Bible.
“The Torah talks about anointing oils. It might’ve been from cannabis,” he said. “In a way, it seemed like magic a few thousand years ago. [Even today] it helps people think creatively… [and to] enjoy the moment. I think that’s something that’s been lost over the years. We look at it as a healing substance.”
Eidinger said that if taken in moderation, marijuana can lead to a more civil society. He thinks calling pot a “recreational drug” is a misnomer.
“I don’t like the word ‘recreational’ because it doesn’t mean what we think it means,” Eidinger said. “It’s not like water skiing is the same as taking marijuana. What I like to say is: It’s for adult use. People use it for different reasons. Don’t pigeonhole it.”
Asked if marijuana is a gateway to harder drugs, Eidinger said, “It’s a gateway to an open mind. People become more creative, more relaxed [and] more accepting.”
Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, who runs a medical marijuana dispensing center in Takoma Park, sees a Passover theme in the demonstrators’ mission, saying that freedom from bondage should apply to cannabis consumers, too.
“As we prepare for Passover and our celebration of freedom, it is important to continue the struggle for freedom for all peoples,” he said. “Convictions for drug offenses are the single most important cause of the explosion in incarceration rates in the United States. The War on Drugs was a failure. It is time to let the prisoners of the war go home to their family and friends.”
Kahn said the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 is outdated.
“It is time to take cannabis off the schedule created by CSA,” he said. “President Obama has the power to do it and, like recognizing Cuba and closing Guantanamo, it is something he can and should do during the last year of his presidency. If not now, when?”
Last week, Obama commuted the prison sentences of 61 people who were serving time for drug offenses.