Some people trick or treat on Halloween. Others aspire to win the annual office costume contest. And still others spend their lunchtime handing out joints and cannabis-infused edibles outside the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). That's what a group of protesters did Tuesday to raise awareness of what they say is an unfair marijuana usage policy within government housing.
Recreational marijuana may be legal in eight states -- and medical marijuana may be legal in another 20 -- but HUD has a strict no-marijuana policy in all of its housing facilities. This means that even in a state which has completely legalized marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, individuals can be denied or removed from HUD housing for possession and usage of marijuana and marijuana products. A memo put out by HUD in December 2014 stated: "regardless of the purpose for which legalized under state law, the use of marijuana in any form is illegal under the CSA [Controlled Substances Act]."
"People that own their homes are able to smoke in their homes," explained Seth Kaye, one of the event's organizers. Kaye said that the law was unfair, and disproportionately affected lower income people who live in public housing and still have to abide by the federal law. "It's classist in that way -- people who are poorest are screwed the most."
That law affects HUD housing residents like Patty Loveless.
"After everything I've been through," said Loveless, "am I going to have to start worrying about being priced out of life?"
Loveless sat in his wheelchair outside the federal HUD. building on Halloween morning, surrounded by a crowd dotted with young women with pink hair and young men in Boy Scout-esque uniforms. Loveless is just one member of D.C.'s active marijuana rights community. He also has chronic pain caused by gangrene and over nine fractures in his back.
D.C.'s marijuana activists said that residents like Loveless who need marijuana for medical purposes -- for reducing pain, seizures or other maladies -- are hardest hit by HUD's marijuana policy.
"They treat people like the laws don't apply to them," said organizer Adam Eidinger, one of the many attendees clad in a Boy Scout uniform at this Halloween-day event. "When D.C. legalized, they should have legalized for everyone."
Eidinger said that HUD landlords use marijuana use as leverage over public housing residents, using it to keep them from complaining about unfinished work or problems with their apartments. The Department of Housing and Urban Development did not return a request for comment.
Outside HUD, a line formed outside the makeshift jail erected on the back of a trailer. Organizers handed out packets of cannabis and edibles from inside the trailer, checking IDs to make sure all recipients were over 21.
"Well that's how people feel -- they feel like they're in jail, even though they're in their house," Eidinger said.
Behind the crowd, a handful of district police watched on. They had directed that as long as the protesters stayed on District of Columbia land, and did not step onto federal land with the cannabis, the event was lawful. Everyone stayed in the right area, and no one tried to use any of the cannabis in public.
"So Trump," Loveless exclaimed, "Get up off your [sic] keister and tell HUD to leave us alone."