Though marijuana is legal in the US capital, Thursday’s event was meant to pressure Congress to legalize marijuana across the nation.
“Under federal law, it is unlawful to possess marijuana,” Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the US Capitol Police, told McClatchy.
Three of the arrested activists were charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, while four were charged with possession.
“You are cordially invited to the 1st Annual Joint Session,” a flyer for the rally stated. “Your gift of two free marijuana joints from DC residents with the nonpartisan local organization DCMJ can be picked up on Thursday, April 20, 2017 from noon – 6:20 p.m. at the corner of 1st St. NE & Constitution Ave. NE.”
The invitation added that it is “for all members of Congress, congressional staff, interns, Capitol Hill support staff, and credentialed journalists who are over 21 years of age.” It noted that the event is “pursuant to Senate and House ethics rules.”
The group is now speaking out against the arrests, and calling them politically motivated.
“We firmly believe that these politically motivated arrests were directly ordered by the US Capitol Police chief in an attempt to suppress Americans’ right to free speech and peaceful demonstration — an unlawful violation of our most basic civil liberties,” Nikolas Schiller, co-founder of the group, told McClatchy.
To protest the arrests, the group will be hosting a “smoke-in” at the Capitol on Monday.