Marijuana decriminalization bill set for introduction to D.C. Council
Vox will soon be able to rest easier knowing that light enjoyment of some greenery won’t be met with a jail sentence.
At least, hopefully. Under a bill which D.C. Council members Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) plan to introduce later today, the penalty for marijuana possession under one ounce will be reduced to a civil penalty punishable by a $100 fine. Marijuana possession in the district is currently a misdemeanor offense that can carry a $1000 fine and six months of jail time.
A poll released in April showed that a whopping 75 percent of D.C. residents favor the decriminalization of marijuana. Not only that, but a solid 63 percent majority said they would vote for enacting a Colorado-esque legislation scheme in the District.
Some groups favoring decriminalization wanted, instead, to push for a ballot initiative in 2014, but Barry and Wells would rather have the Council take the lead. While several other council members support decriminalization, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson remains skeptical.
“I don’t think it’s the right time,” Mendelson told the Washington Post. “I don’t think decriminalization of marijuana will go over easily with Congress.” Congress, of course, has the right to block any measure of the D.C. Council.
For his part, Mayor Vince Gray said that D.C. should fully implement its medical marijuana program before proceeding to address decriminalization. Other groups have voiced support for ballot measure to enact full-on legalization, which could come as early as 2014.
Decriminalization would not only address the racial disparities in arrest rates for possession which plague the District, it would draw law enforcement resources away from preventing people from smoking a plant and, Vox hopes, toward preventing real crime.
Photo: Stephen Stills via Flickr