The D.C. area's first medical marijuana dispensaries–including one run by a rabbi–will open any day now, but the headaches don't end there for a Justice Department and a Congress that have heretofore ignored growing public support for legalizing marijuana.
A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) and co-commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) found that 63 percent of D.C. residents support taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol, and that 75 percent of residents think the drug should be decriminalized.
In fact, no matter which liberalization scenario PPP presented–a $300 fine for cultivation with no jail time, a $100 fine for possession with no jail time, tax-and-regulate, unregulated legal possession for adults over 21, broadening the criteria for medical marijuana–a majority of respondents favored lessening or eliminating penalties for marijuana offenses.
The poll results were so promising, says Mason Tvert, director of communications for MPP (and the brains behind Colorado's Amendment 64), that marijuana advocates in D.C. "will be talking to community leaders and elected officials about various options for adopting a more sensible marijuana policy in D.C., including the possibility of a [decriminization] ballot initiative campaign as early as 2014."
In 2011, the last year for which the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department claims to have data available, there were 5,759 marijuana-related arrests in the city, up from 4,445 in 2009, and 1,884 in 1995.