D.C. marijuana decriminalization bill catches fire in congressional hearing

Editor’s note: Now that finals have ended, Vox returns, ready to provide his faithful readers with content all summer. In addition to two posts every day, Vox will feature a Prefrosh Preview every Monday and Friday.

Last Friday, the District’s marijuana decriminalization bill faced opposition in a congressional subcommittee hearing. Representative John Mica, R-Florida, holding a mock joint, questioned D.C.’s bill, noting its conflicts with federal law.

Passed last March by Mayor Vincent Gray after a 10 to one vote in the City Council, the “The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013″ changed the punishment for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine to a $25 fine with no arrest or criminal record. One of the major driving forces for the bill was the consistent racial bias in incarceration rates for black and white marijuana users in D.C.

Despite the bill’s popularity in the city, Congress may decide to enact its oversight abilities in this case and prevent the bill from becoming law. Congress has blocked only three District laws since 1979, according to City Paper.

Even if the majority-Republican House lets the decriminalization bill through, it must make it by the Senate and president.

While Mica is not sure if he will officially introduce a resolution contesting D.C.’s bill, Rep. John Fleming said he certainly will. Fleming is a doctor and spoke about the dangers of marijuana use during the hearing, according to City Paper.

Another issue brought up during the hearing is the fact that the federal statutes against marijuana, which still punish marijuana possession criminally, probably will be enforced on federal land in the District. Although the hearing was not entirely clear on how cases of marijuana possession on federal land in the District will be handled, they may fall under federal jurisdiction.

Sorry, kids, that means no lighting up with honest Abe at the Mall.

Photo: Stephen Stills via Flickr

One Comment on “D.C. marijuana decriminalization bill catches fire in congressional hearing

  1. I wonder how much of this is Congress figuring that if pot is decriminalized, the high strung interns will forget to fawn over everyone in the Capitol?

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