DC Council Votes To Decriminalize Marijuana



Cheers to the District of Columbia, whose city council voted today in favor of a measure decriminalizing marijuana possession in the district. Under the new rules, possessing a small amount of marijuana will be a civil, not criminal, offense, punishable by a $25 fine. That's less then the price of your average D.C. parking ticket!

The law—which will now face review by Congress—also: 

  • Protects people who share marijuana from being prosecuted as dealers
  • Prevents police from charging people with possession or dealing if they simultaneously possess both bags of marijuana and lots of cash

An earlier version of the measure would also have made smoking pot in public a civil offense, punishable by a $100 fine. But as passed, it keeps criminal penalties in place for smoking or selling marijuana.

Nonetheless, the move makes the capital one of the most lenient places in the nation for marijuana possession, according to The Washington Post. This after many years of strict war-on-drugs policing that disproportionately harmed the city's African American residents. According to the measure's author, Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), eight times more blacks than non-blacks are arrested for pot possession in the district.

"While we support the dramatic reduction in penalties associated with marijuana possession, this legislation will still allow the police to continue to hassle and arrest District residents who choose to smoke marijuana," said Adam Eidinger, chairman of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, a committee working to further reduce criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession and cultivation. "We are organizing so voters have a say on whether marijuana should be fully legal this November."

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  1. But – the supporters of this law are statists with impure motives!

    Seriously, though, a good step.

  2. Incrementalism: it built the State and it can take it back apart.

  3. Maybe if Congress all get high they won’t be so eager to “do something” about every crisis.

    1. Their drug use hasn’t slowed them down yet.

  4. This will be an interesting test of Congress’ commitment to the continually-failing WoD.

  5. “prevents police from charging people with possession or dealing if they simultaneously possess both bags of marijuana and lots of cash”

    Note to dealers: simultaneously possess both bags of marijuana and lots of cash!

  6. In all articles about “de-criminalization” I wish the writers would not use that term unless there would be absolutely no penalties involved. Until that happens, could writers please say that the city council or legislature has passed a bill “that greatly reduces the penalties” for possession? And I don’t want to even start on the bullshit distinction between criminal and civil penalties.

  7. While this is great, it is still illegal to grow or sell pot in DC. DC legalized medical marijuana around 15 years ago, but dispensaries only opened last year because of the local regulatory thicket. And no one has been able to start a commercial nursery to produce the medical marijuana, as some neighborhood group always uses existing permits, licenses, and regulations to prevent it.

    Additionally, DC’s downtown neighborhoods have drug war/prohibition related gang violence because buying and selling pot is illegal, and all other drugs remain illegal.

    It’s one cheer, or maybe two.

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