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A volunteer inside a cage hands out a marijuana joint. DCMJ gave out more than 8,000 free joints Friday. Julia Abriola | Hatchet Photographer

A volunteer inside a cage hands out a marijuana joint. DCMJ gave out more than 8,000 free joints Friday. Julia Abriola | Hatchet Photographer

Friday morning, thousands of people formed a line that stretched four blocks near Dupont Circle – all waiting to get their hands on free joints.

DCMJ, a D.C.-based marijuana legalization advocacy group, handed out more than 8,000 joints to District residents and tourists in town for the inauguration at their event #Trump420.

Organizers said #Trump420 was meant to send the message to U.S. President Donald Trump that marijuana should be legalized in all 50 states. Marijuana was decriminalized in D.C. and voters approved adult recreational use in 2014.

When the event officially began Friday at 8 a.m., sidewalks were already overflowing with both people wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and people carrying signs in protest of the new president.

Some members of the crowd shouted variations of popular campaign phrases, like “When they go low, we get high” and “Make America kind again.”

Gavin Coffin, who traveled from Los Angeles for Inauguration Day, said he arrived to Dupont Circle Friday morning at 6:30 a.m. and was the first person in line to get free joints.

Coffin said he supports marijuana legalization to help people with medical issues.

“I’m a Trump supporter but I also have medical problems,” Coffin said. “I have been off painkillers and now I smoke grass once and awhile and it helps, so that’s why I’m pro-marijuana.”

Coffin said he suffers from “Elephant Man Disease” – a common name for Proteus syndrome, which causes benign tumors and atypical bone development.

After standing in line for most of the morning, Coffin lit one of his free joints on Massachusetts Ave. and said he would continue to the National Mall. A group on the Mall planned to begin smoking four minutes and 20 seconds into Trump’s inaugural address, he said.

Some of the volunteers handed out joints from inside a cage, meant to signify that some people in the U.S. are in jail for possessing or selling marijuana, which is legal in other parts of the country. 

Taylor Stewardson, a first-time volunteer for DCMJ, said he got involved because Trump’s administration will be the “darkest time.”

“I’m going to stand up and do something about this, because this is bullshit,” Stewardson said.

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This post was written by staff writer Catherine Moran.

D.C. Council members proposed various pieces legislation during their first legislative meeting of the year Tuesday, from building up the Metropolitan Police Department to full marijuana legalization.

Here are the top three proposed laws you should know.

1. Fully legalizing marijuana

At-large Council member David Grosso proposed a bill that would fully legalize marijuana in the District. While marijuana was decriminalized in D.C. and voters approved adult recreational use in 2014, Grosso’s legislation addresses past congressional intervention that prevented the city from regulating and taxing marijuana.

In June, Congress, which has jurisdiction over D.C., blocked an amendment that would have allowed the city to use funds for a legal marijuana retail market, according to Extract, a website focused on marijuana coverage.

“We know the war on drugs is and was a failure,” Grosso said, adding that it contributed to an increase in mass incarceration and is “racial in its implementation.”

Grosso said that his act is the logical next step in setting up a strong tax and regulatory system. The Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will now work on and address the legislation.

2. Increasing law enforcement numbers

Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray proposed a bill to increase D.C. police staffing, saying that MPD staffing is at the “lowest level in a decade.” MPD has more than 4,000 sworn and civilian members, according MPD, but Interim Police Chief Peter Newsham told Fox News in October that the number of sworn officers was slightly above 3,700.

Gray said former D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier emphasized meeting the 3,800 minimum officer threshold for several years as officer retention plagued the department.

The alumnus and former mayor said the city’s population surge requires increasing the number of sworn officers from 4,000 to 4,200, saying it was important to “increase the number of officers deployed to help neighborhoods most plagued by violent crime.”

The proposed legislation would set aside “adequate” funding in the budget for MPD, which would help to cover the cost of hiring, training and equipping officers, Gray said.

3. Access to free Wi-Fi

Ward 4 Council member Brandon Todd introduced legislation to create a taskforce that will work to provide and oversee construction for free wireless internet access in the District. Todd said free Wi-Fi will be beneficial to D.C.’s economy. People with lower incomes can miss the chance to pursue other opportunities without access to the internet, where most job applications are now hosted, he said.

“Today high-speed broadband is not a luxury – it’s a necessity,” Todd said, “The internet divide is an economic divide.”

Todd said cities like New York and Boston have increased accessibility to free Wi-Fi. New York recently added free Wi-Fi and cellphone service in the subway system, according to The New York Times.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced their plans to add Wi-Fi to all underground Metro stations in December.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Meredith Matthews.

Metropolitan Police Department officers arrested a student in City Hall last week for possessing LSD, according to a report from MPD.

A University Police Department officer and the City Hall residence director responded to the student’s eighth-floor room last Wednesday after Health and Safety staff had started conducting an administrative search and “observed green leafy substances in plain sight,” according to the report. The search occurred at about 4:10 p.m.

The UPD officer “observed several pieces of drug paraphernalia, a container of green leafy substance and a scale,” according to the report. The residence director found two “small, clear plastic baggies with blue star patterns in the refrigerator,” according to the report. Each of the baggies contained a “small brown sugar cube” which the student said were LSD, according to the report.

The student had arrived in the room shortly after the UPD officer began the search and said that “the items found in the search” belonged to him, according to the report. The student’s roommate had been asked to leave the room, according to the report.

There was also a “small, clear plastic baggie” with the same pattern on the student’s desk, which he said “once contained paper laced with LSD,” according to the report.

“He stated that he kept the empty plastic baggie, after consuming its contents, as a souvenir,” according to the report. The student was placed under arrest at about 6:14 p.m., according to the report.

The residence director also found “a small container of butane hash oil, a blue hand-held propane tank” and “a small metal dental tool,” according to the report.

The UPD officer placed the student in “protective custody and performed a frisk” at about 6:30 p.m. The officer then requested that MPD officers respond to the scene, according to the report. The UPD officer identified 1.7 grams of a “brown waxy substance,” which tests revealed was butane hash oil.

The responders were “unable to successfully test the sugar cubes on scene,” according to the report. The items were photographed, bagged and transported to the MPD Narcotics and Special Investigations Division, according to the report.

Officers identified the student based on his driver’s license and GWorld, according to the report.

Later that day, MPD Lt. James Boteler tested the cubes and said that “he strongly believes that the sugar cubes were in fact laced with LSD,” based on his “experience, training and inspection” and the student’s statement, according to the report. The sugar cubes were then sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s drug lab, according to the report.

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John Oliver may have just made himself the apple of every D.C. politician’s eye.

The host of the HBO satirical news show “Last Week Tonight” advocated for D.C. statehood Sunday night – with song – arousing praise from the D.C. community who objects to the District’s inability to pass laws or define its own budget without Congressional approval.

“There is one other U.S. population who suffers a lack of representation in D.C., and that is D.C. itself,” Oliver said on the show. “If you’ve ever visited, their license plates say ‘taxation without representation,’ and that is for a pretty good reason.”

The show included a run-down on the origins of the District’s political situation and showed clips of D.C.’S non-voting Congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, standing her ground on statehood in an argument. D.C. residents only received the right to vote in presidential elections with the 23rd amendment in the 1960s and only being able to elect its own mayor and council members with the creation of the Home Rule Act in the next decade.

Oliver cited a number of incidents in recent D.C. history he considered unfair, including D.C.’s inability to use tax money to legalize the sale of marijuana, even though the city allows residents to grow, smoke and possess the substance for recreational use. The show also mentioned Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga, voting against D.C. using its tax money for a needle exchange program in the city, although Barr’s home state of Georgia has its own needle program.

“It seems that Congress just forces riders on D.C. whenever they disapprove on how they’re spending their money,” Oliver said. “They are treating more than 600,000 people right now like children.”

Oliver’s comments have lead local politicians such as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council members to chime in on the debate and support Oliver’s statements.

The topic of D.C. statehood was discussed for the first time in more than 20 years in the U.S. Senate last year when Norton, along with then-mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and two senators argued for statehood. Since leaving office in January, Gray has been working to strengthen the statehood movement in the District.

D.C. Council Member Anita Bonds, At-Large, also introduced a resolution for D.C. statehood to the National Conference of State Legislators Summit in Seattle, Washington, which lasts from Monday through Thursday, according to a press release. Council members Vincent Orange, At-Large, Charles Allen from Ward 6, and Kenyan McDuffie from Ward 5, were also a part of submitting the resolution.

Missed Oliver’s segment? Be sure to watch it below.

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The D.C. Council voted Tuesday to raise the stakes for businesses caught selling synthetic marijuana, making it a $10,000 misstep on the first violation, DCist reported Tuesday.

The bill calls for a $10,000 fine to any business caught dealing the synthetic marijuana for the first time, and doubles the amount on the second offense. Emergency legislation introduced by Mayor Muriel Bowser two weeks ago also allows the police chief to shut down any business caught with selling the substance, according to DCist.

District officials began to show concerns about synthetic marijuana after at least seven people in D.C.’s largest homeless shelter overdosed on the substance, the Washington Post reported earlier this month.

Synthetic marijuana offers similar effects to authentic marijuana, and is comprised of a herbal mixture, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The synthetic concoction is often marketed as a safe and legal alternative to marijuana despite reports of it containing unnatural substances like chemical additives.

Marijuana was decriminalized in July and voters in D.C. passed a ballot initiative in November to legalize the substance.

Bowser announced the bill two weeks ago, along with two new units in the Metro Police Department centered on drugs and related crimes, DCist reported earlier this month.

“We believe these significant strategic changes will be of great help for our police department, both in terms of combating the new environment of illegal drug manufacturing and sales as well as increasing their visible presence in our communities and interacting with our residents,” Bowser said in a statement when introducing the bill.

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A Congressional spending measure will again block the sale of marijuana in D.C. Hatchet File Photo

A Congressional spending measure will again block the sale of marijuana in D.C. Hatchet File Photo

Republicans in the House of Representatives Thursday moved forward with a budget bill that would keep the sale of marijuana illegal in D.C. for more than two years, the Washington Post reported.

Since Februrary, D.C. residents have been able to grow, smoke and possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. The House bill would not reverse that, but would keep D.C. officials from being able to “enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation” for legalization.

Mayor Muriel Bowser commented earlier this year that the funding ban would not impede the legalization that was approved by voters because smoking and possessing the substance does not require D.C. to spend money to regulate it.

James Jones, a D.C. statehood advocate for D.C. Vote, called the budget a “small victory” if the budget passed as it is now, the Post reported.

Congress advanced other measures recently that would maintain medical marijuana programs. Both Republicans and Democrats in the House last week instructed the Drug Enforcement Agency not to target state medical marijuana dispensaries or states that allow sales of products derived from marijuana plants.

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A female student was arrested last week for possession of lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD, according to a Metropolitan Police Department report.

At about 9:15 p.m. on April 5, a UPD officer received an anonymous phone call “stating that there is an odor of marijuana” coming from a second-floor Munson Hall room, according to the MPD report and the University crime log. The officer began searching the room with permission from the residence director on duty, according to the MPD report.

The room’s resident, 20-year-old Madelyn Roy, told the officer she had two tabs of LSD, one Adderall pill and about three grams of marijuana, according to the MPD report that named Roy.

The officer then found a “small piece of paper located in the second desk drawer from the top right side of [Roy’s] desk,” according to the MPD report. City police were notified of the incident and conducted tests that confirmed the tabs were LSD.

Roy was arrested in her room a little after midnight on April 6. She was then transported to the Second District police station for processing.

UPD recorded a total of 11 drug arrests in 2013, according to GW’s annual security report, which is the latest data available. The previous year, campus police recorded 20 arrests.

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A 20-year-old male student was arrested after police found LSD, marijuana and drug paraphernalia in his International House room. File Photo by Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

A male student was arrested in International House last month after campus and city police found lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD, in his room.

Metropolitan Police Department officers were dispatched to the residence hall on Feb. 4 after the University Police Department was called to the seventh-floor room and found LSD and 2.67 ounces of marijuana, according to an MPD incident report and GW’s crime log.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar confirmed that the man who was arrested was a student.

Officers also found a scale with green “weed-like residue” and “CVS pill pouch bags,” according to the police report.

The student, a 20-year-old white man with blonde hair and a “slight beard,” was arrested for possession of LSD, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He was brought to the Second District police station for processing.

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Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 11:27 p.m.

D.C. voters approve marijuana legalization

D.C voters chose to legalize marijuana in the city Tuesday night. Hatchet File Photo

D.C voters chose to legalize marijuana in the city Tuesday night. Hatchet File Photo

Updated: Nov. 5, 2014 at 11:19 a.m.

D.C. voters passed a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the city on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported.

At least 68 percent of voters approved of legalizing possession of less than two ounces of marijuana for those over 21. The initiative is expected to pass in all eight wards, including Foggy Bottom.

With the D.C. Board of Election reporting about 18 percent of the vote in Ward 2, about 71 percent of Foggy Bottom voters were in favor of the initiative.

Before marijuana becomes legal in D.C., the initiative must be approved by the city government and pass a 60-day period in which Congress can review the measure.

The University has said that even if marijuana was legalized in D.C. it would continue to ban marijuana use on campus. If it did not, it could risk losing federal funding.

Last week, the D.C. Council discussed how to roll out legalization, and pinpointed the challenges of how to tax the drug, as well as the potential health risks. Council member David Grosso, who introduced legalization legislation last year, said then that the tax revenue from selling marijuana legally could go toward education efforts to raise awareness of the drug’s potential harms.

Student leaders have lobbied for legalizing the drug since the referendum was placed on the ballot in August. GW’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter encouraged students to vote, and members have said that once marijuana was legalized, they would urge the University to relax the current penalties for on-campus marijuana use.

Since decriminalization took effect in the city in July, those caught with less than one ounce of marijuana face just a $25 fine.

Before the referendum made it on the ballot, the D.C. Cannabis Campaign circulated a petition that secured 57,000 signatures. That was twice the amount needed to place it on the ballot.

At least 63 percent of D.C. residents supported legalization, according to a Washington Post poll released in January.

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Council member Jack Evans hears testimony on marijuana legalization in D.C.  Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Council member Jack Evans hears testimony on marijuana legalization in D.C.
Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Regina Park. 

D.C. voters haven’t decided whether they will back legalizing marijuana at the polls next week, but D.C. Council held a joint public hearing to plan out its potential roll out.

Planning how to legalize the use and possession of up to two ounces of marijuana in a city would need a lot of collaboration across departments and organizations, Council members said. The Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Committee on Finance and Revenue heard opinions about the consequences of legalizing the drug through the ballot referendum.

Council member Jack Evans, who represents Foggy Bottom, and Council member Vincent Orange led the hearing, which heard from policy makers, marijuana activists and other Council members. Here are the three biggest takeaways from the hearing.

1. A potentially complex roll out

Most of the hearing focused on the details of how marijuana legalization would be implemented in D.C. if the measure were to pass on Election Day.

Council members and experts discussed whether marijuana would be taxed at the same rate as alcohol in D.C., and Orange asked if the packaging and sale of the drug would also reflect the policies in place for alcohol.

The hearing also focused on the policies other states that have legalized marijuana have dealt with the rollout of the law.

“Marijuana legalization is a policy that has become very popular among policy makers.” Robert J. Capecchi, Deputy Director of State Policies of the Marijuana Policy Project, said. “A vast majority of the states are considering legalization of marijuana.”

2. Extra income for the city

The marijuana market in D.C. would be a $130 million industry, according to The Washington Post. If marijuana is legalized, Evans said the taxes levied from marijuana could add some surplus cash to the state budget.

“Taxes on marijuana could be nearly $20 million a year.” Evans said.

Malik Burnett, policy manager of the Drug Policy Alliance, said the money should aid development in the largely African American neighborhoods hit hardest by marijuana arrests.

“Nine out of ten people arrested for possession of marijuana were African Americans,” he said.

3. The effect on youth

Some Council members like Orange, who chairs the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, voiced concern over whether legalization would send the message that marijuana use was not harmful to those under 21.

“Can we legalize marijuana without sending the message to youths that it’s risk-free?” he said.

Orange also said there are still harmful health effects for those using marijuana, citing a weakened immune systems and memory loss.

Council member At-Large David Grosso, who sponsored the referendum, countered and said the city could use the revenue gained from taxes on the drug to fund education programs about the negative impacts of marijuana.

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