Everyone prepares for the inauguration in their own special way. President-elect Donald Trump is writing his inaugural address. The Rockettes are practicing their dance moves. Women's March protesters are painting their signs. And DCMJ is rolling joints.
The D.C.-based marijuana advocacy group that successfully lobbied for weed legalization in the district has already rolled more than 5,500 joints to hand out for free before the inauguration. DCMJ says the marijuana hand-out is not necessarily an anti-Trump protest, since both revelers and protesters are invited to partake. Instead, says DCMJ co-founder Nikolas Schiller, the event is supposed to be for anybody who supports cannabis reform.
"We said we would call it off if Trump said anything about cannabis reform," Schiller said. Since the President-elect has been silent on the issue, Schiller is instructing participants to pick up a joint around 8:00 am on the west side of Dupont Circle, then head to the National Mall and light up exactly 4 minutes and 20 seconds into Trump's speech. While marijuana possession is legal in Washington D.C. and Schiller and his friends aren't breaking the law by distributing free weed in public, toking on federal property is still illegal.
"The act of nonviolent civil disobedience is to break a law that they wish to change," he explains. "The smell can go around and people can know ‘oh those people are demonstrating the importance of cannabis legalization.'"
Schiller and his fellow DCMJ members are behind this effort from seed to smell. DCMJ successfully lobbied for marijuana legalization in the district, but a congressional budget trick prevented any regulatory spending to legally sell and tax weed, which is why you don't see any dispensaries in Washington D.C. But growing and possessing marijuana is still legal, so the DCMJ organized a free seed-sharing program so that D.C. residents could grow their own pot at home. Residents are allowed to grow up to six plants per individual (12 for a couple) and possess up to two ounces of weed, but not buy or sell it. So DCMJ gave out over 20,000 free cannabis seeds to D.C. residents.
For DCMJ at least, they reaped what they sowed. Once they decided to organize a mass marijuana demonstration at the inauguration, they put out the call for weed donations, and they were overwhelmed at the response. The group has collectively rolled more than 5,500 joints, many of them rolled on TIME magazines "to keep the cannabis off the tablecloth." Schiller himself has rolled 200 of those, at 55 seconds apiece.
They say the demonstration is all about cannabis reform and not about politics. DCMJ has repeatedly demonstrated outside the White House for Obama to re-schedule marijuana out of Schedule I, but they never made much progress. The group hopes Trump's presidency might be a chance for a new start.
After seven marijuana initiatives passed around the country in November (in Massachusetts, Nevada, Maine and California, among others,) some drug reform advocates hope that reforms on the state level might trigger a federal shift. With 29 states legalizing medical marijuana and eight legalizing recreational use, some hope the federal government won't be far behind. But Trump's Attorney General pick Jeff Sessions has been loudly opposed to marijuana legalization, and Mike Pence is skeptical about cannabis reform. Trump himself has expressed support for medical marijuana use, but has said the rest should be decided "state by state."
" We really believed that Obama would do something while he had the power to do something, and he never did," Schiller says. "So now we really hope Trump will do what Obama didn’t."