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
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
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
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.
“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.”