DC City Council Wants to Decriminalize Marijuana For “Social Justice,” Not Interested in Legalizing, May Be on the Ballot Anyway

weed brings people togetherElvert Barnes/Foter.comThe city council in Washington, DC is considering a bill, cosponsored by a majority of the council, that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana up to an ounce, making it a “civil offense” resulting in a fine, according to the local NBC affiliate. The primary sponsor of the bill, Tommy Wells, says the bill is a matter of “social justice,” and that he’s not concerned with the legal status of marijuana insomuch as he’s concerned about the 6,000 people, predominantly African-American, that are arrested for “using small amounts of marijuana.”

Activists are pressing for full legalization, pointing out that decriminalization will just cause the black market to expand even more, since everything that makes the possession of a small amount of marijuana possible remains illegal. But Councilman Wells says he doesn’t “believe growing marijuana in your home is really an issue of social justice… I’m not sure that our city is ready to do that.” Wells is right, growing marijuana in your own home is not a “social justice” issue. It’s an issue of rights and freedoms.

Wells’ frankly half-assed attempt at liberalizing the legal regime surrounding marijuana isn’t likely to even meet the narrow goal Wells set out. 91 percent of marijuana arrests in DC may be of black residents, but plenty of Beltway professionals use pot too. They just don’t need decriminalization to stay off the radar of local law enforcement, which largely targets black residents in its drug war efforts (similar tactics are seen in New York City, where whites are more likely to use marijuana but non-whites are more likely to be arrested for it). Wells’ effort isn’t going to make it less likely local law enforcement continues to target predominantly young black men for possession of marijuana. As criminal attorney Paul Zukerberg pointed out to NBC Washington:  “Any amount of marijuana, even a roach, a partially burnt marijuana cigarette, is a criminal misdemeanor… Means you get arrested, your name is entered into the national criminal database, you have to go to court, hire a lawyer, and you face jail time. These are things that are permanently on your record… when you’re looking to get a job.”

While Wells’ bill is expected to pass and become law sometime in 2014, activists are working on a measure that would see DC residents vote on legalization in the November 2014 election. “People don’t want to be harassed anymore,” one activist, Adam Eidinger of DCMJ 2014, told NBC Washington. “People want rights.” And whatever pretension to “social justice” the DC city council may have is no replacement for that.

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  • John||

    Isn't "social justice" just DC code for "if white people were being arrested for this we wouldn't care"?

  • Louis Cypher||

    "if white people were being arrested for this we wouldn't care"

    If white people were being arrested for it in the same proportion as blacks, the drug war would have been over decades ago.

  • anon||

    It was.

    They lost.

  • Louis Cypher||

    Not sure what you are saying. But whites are not arrested at near the rate as blacks as the June 2013 ACLU report:

    In 2010, nationwide the white arrest rate was 192 per 100,000 whites, and the black arrest rate was 716 per 100,000 blacks.

    But:

    In 2010, 14% of Blacks and 12% of whites reported using marijuana in the past year; in 2001, the figure was 10% of whites and 9% of Blacks. In 2010, 34% of whites and 27% of Blacks reported having last used marijuana more than one year ago — a constant trend over the past decade. Each year over the past decade more Blacks than whites reported that they had never used marijuana.

  • anon||

    , the drug war would have been over decades ago.

    Yeah, sorry about that. Realized my response was a bit out of context as I posted it.

  • John||

    Sure it would. But not because the DC council would have been concerned about it.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    "Social" is a modifier meaning "something quite different from".

  • ||

    The city council in Washington, DC is considering a bill, cosponsored by a majority of the council, that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana up to an ounce, making it a “civil offense” resulting in a fine, according to the local NBC affiliate. The primary sponsor of the bill, Tommy Wells, says the bill is a matter of “social justice,” and that he’s not concerned with the legal status of marijuana insomuch as he’s concerned about the 6,000 people, predominantly African-American, that are arrested for “using small amounts of marijuana.”

    That's cute, Tommy. But the grown-ups on Capitol Hill are going to shoot that thing down if it passes. One does not flout Sauron's rules in the heart of Mordor.

  • Bee Tagger||

    that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana up to an ounce, making it a “civil offense” resulting in a fine,

    Will one be treated like a criminal if one chooses to not pay that fine?

  • Juice||

    Exactly. It's such an abused word.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Wells is right, growing marijuana in your own home is not a “social justice” issue. It’s an issue of rights and freedoms.

    That's the reason for that position. Collective rights good, individual rights bad.

  • wareagle||

    social justice? No, fuck you. Come up with something better than the usual griefers-R-us trope. Bad policy screws everyone, not just certain groups.

  • SugarFree||

    “People want rights.”

    People have rights; what we want is for statists to stop wiping their asses with them.

  • Dweebston||

    “People don’t want to be harassed anymore,” one activist, Adam Eidinger of DCMJ 2014, told NBC Washington. “People want rights.”

    Speak for yourself, Adam. As long as she respects the safe word, she can walk all over me. I'm paying for harassment, not "rights."

  • Juice||

    I love the term "decriminalize" that these people use. If you can still stop me from doing it and then punishing me in the process, it's still criminalized, just to a lesser extent. To me, decriminalization would mean that they leave you alone to do it as you like (which is different from legalization).

  • SugarFree||

    I always think of it this way: Most traffic violations are non-criminal, and cops hate enforcing those, right?

  • Juice||

    I understand, but my point is that traffic violations are treated as crimes because one is punished for committing them. To me there's no distinction between most "civil infractions" and crimes, especially when the so-called non-crimes are treated exactly as crimes.

  • SugarFree||

    [hoarse stage whisper] I was being sarcastic. [/hoarse stage whisper]

  • AlgerHiss||

    “Social “Justice”

    Just one more of the many euphemisms for Marxism… and leftism… and communism.

  • PH2050||

    "People want rights."

    Yes, not selective loopholes and designations determined by some fatass in a council seat.

    Fuck off, slaver.

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