By Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director
Today, members of the DC City Council voted in favor of the Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act, which removes criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and reclassifies it as a civil infraction under DC law, punishable by a $25 ticket and no criminal record. Councilwoman Yvette Alexander was the only member who voted in opposition to this measure.
A 2012 analysis published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland reported that DC possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.
However, prior to today's vote, Council Chairman Phil Mendleson introduced an amendment to retain criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses that involve public consumption. Despite concerns voiced by Councilmen Wells and Grosso, the amendment was adopted. If the measure is ultimately approved as amended, the public consumption of marijuana would remain a criminal offense subject to arrest and punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
A final vote by the DC Council on this measure is expected to occur in early March. At that time, the council could also overturn Chairman Mendleson's amendment. NORML and our allies are advocating for such change, as continuing to criminalize the public consumption of marijuana will only perpetuate the District's record of racially disparate arrests.
Once approved by a second vote of the City Council, the legislation enters a 30-day review period by members of Congress.
DC RESIDENTS: Click here to contact the DC City Council and urge them to support this measure and to oppose the Mendleson amendment.