Police reports: Dozen pot busts at Capitol since last year

A dozen people have been arrested with marijuana while trying to enter the Capitol in the past 18 months, a review of police reports by The Hill found.

Tourists, visitors and staff undergo a strict screening process before entering the House and Senate and their respective office buildings, passing though metal detectors and an X-ray machine on the way. But in the past year and a half, police have stopped at least a dozen people who have entered the building with marijuana and other illegal drugs, including cocaine in one instance, according to police reports.

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The reports do not disclose the names of the people arrested, but a U.S. Capitol Police source familiar with some of the cases told The Hill that the majority of the alleged drug carriers were tourists.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said the department’s main mission is to find dangerous objects that could be used to harm lawmakers or Capitol Hill staff. But while conducting searches, officers will sometimes discover other illegal items.

In the past, police have arrested people trying to carry brass knuckles, a stun gun and unlicensed firearms into the Capitol or the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC), according to Capitol Police reports.

“The primary job of the Capitol Police is to maintain a secure environment and prevent any kind of dangerous weapons or prohibited items from entering the Capitol,” Schneider told The Hill. “But people — as they’re coming through screening — will present those items as things they take out of their pocket or [have] on their person. And if the officers find that, they’ll arrest them for bringing illegal drugs into the Capitol.”

Schneider said it would be difficult to estimate how many are able to slip through Capitol security with illegal substances in their possession.

Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer — the former chief of the Capitol Police — said instances of police finding small amounts of marijuana are a testament to the intense training that officers receive, especially with regard to explosives.

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“I think it shows a lot about these officers’ attention to detail, because the only way you’re going to prevent people from bringing in pieces of explosives and bombs — to somehow get them in the building to put it together — is to look at the minutiae,” Gainer told The Hill.

“It’s pretty easy to look and see the bundle of TNT with a ticking time clock,” Gainer said. “It takes a much more astute officer to home in on the detail, whether it’s related to bomb-making activity or dope. It’s a powerful statement about what those officers are doing.”

Gainer said that people getting caught with illegal drugs is not a new thing for the Capitol, but that it may be happening more frequently because of the CVC, which has seen almost 3 million visitors since it opened 19 months ago.

“Wherever you have a situation with law enforcement or people screen your belongings, there are instances when you come up with contraband and illegal drugs and any other number of strange items,” he said. “So it’s not new. It’s just probably more centralized with the CVC.

“Maybe it’s an indication that smoking marijuana dulls your senses,” Gainer added. “They’re not as bright as they should be.”