District Of Columbia: City Council Finalizes Vote Decriminalizing Pot Possession Offenses

Members of the Washington DC City Council gave final approval today to legislation reducing the District’s marijuana possession penalties to a fine-only violation.

District lawmakers voted 10 to 1 in favor of “The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013,” which amends District law involving the possession or transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a civil violation (punishable by a $25 fine, no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record). Democrat Mayor Vincent C. Gray said that he intends to sign the measure into law.

Offenses involving the public consumption of cannabis remain classified as a criminal misdemeanor under DC law, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $500 fine. The possession of cannabis-related paraphernalia will be re-classified as a violation, not a criminal offense.

Once signed into law, the measure faces a 60-day review period by members of Congress.

The District measure is similar to existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.

Five additional states – Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio – treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense.

Three states – Alaska, Colorado, and Washington – impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.

A 2012 analysis published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland reported that the District possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.

19 thoughts

  1. “Once signed into law, the measure faces a 60-day review period by members of Congress.”

    Remember Bob Barr?

  2. If any of these decriminalization measures have a ripple effect then I surely do hope this is the one!

  3. Okay, so now folks living in the seat of our national government can (will be able to, in all likelihood)smoke/vape/ingest but a significant portion of the rest of us cannot? What about Federal employees in the District??? Since it must pass the smell (pun intended) test by Congress, will it not be an ad hoc decrim on the federal level (albeit local)??? When will the Era of Lies end?? Goodness how I would love to be an herb activist, but as a government employee, that just ain’t possible. I will continue to pray that this plant, which is obviously a gift from God as are all other naturally occurring things on this earth, be recognized and celebrated for the possibilities it represents. Until then, the tyranny continues…

  4. In Indianapolis, Marion County, possession of marijuana charges are often dismissed although there is no formal law making possession legal. This is great, but victims are still incarcerated overnight and have monetary penalties such as jail phone charges and automobile towing fees.

    Would love to see this changed to decriminalization!

  5. So why isn’t this a nation wide law?

    [Paul Armentano responds: Because District laws enacted by the DC City Council apply to the District of Columbia, which has its own laws and elected officials. Only federal laws approved by Congress and signed by the President apply to the nation.]

  6. Two cheers for incrementalism.

    I note that the possession of “cannabis-related paraphernalia” will be reclassified downward to a non-criminal violation, but the new statute provides that said “paraphernalia” may, as before, be confiscated by an officer. This amounts to continued favoritism toward “EASIER-TO-HIDE” $igarette papers– additionally because if those are confiscated it represents a smaller $$ loss to the owner than a vaporizer or a long-drawtube one-hitter.

    Thus a continued benefit to the marketers of H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide $igarettes (the same companies also market most “rolling papers”)– and an obvious reward for feeding the government “$igarette tax” revenue and candidates “campaign money”.

    No one really expects that this statute change will reduce access of young persons to cannabis, meanwhile the “paraphernalia” provision continues to assure that for most of them such access will mean contact with the practice and ritual of “joint”-rolling which is a true Gateway Drug to Nicotine $igarette addiction ($289-BILLION yearly loss to the US economy according to 2014 Surgeon General Report).

  7. There’s going to be hot time in the old town tonight. And I’d like to personally invite old Mr. red lips himself as the guest of honor at the potty.

  8. Did someone say, “ripple effects”? You bet there are. With it being so legal and attainable in Colorado, where do you think the people in the neighboring states will be heading every weekend? And buying gas and having dinner and shopping…. It won’t take long for the local business owners to say, “Whoa….bring ’em back here!” The expansion of lotteries to neighboring states has proved that. Moreover, financially strapped state and municipal governments are already seeing the unimaginable (really–it was way bigger than Colorado imagined) financial upside.

  9. I sure hope north dakota catches on. I was at a house that was raided because the bitchy old neighbor called the cops and said she could smell pot… i had a couple grams over a ounce, a scale, and was within a 1000 ft of a school( pre-school, elementary, high school, college, or training center). Im now being charged with a class A felony which is punishable by a maximum of 20 years or 20,000 dollars or both.

  10. DOES D.C. HAVE THE HOUSE???!!!!
    (Say right now…)
    (Hold up! Waitamminut…)

    We’re either getting a block party out of this or a record scratch from Congress. Don’t hold your breath, you won’t get no higher.

    Today I am proud I was born in D.C.
    To all the little black kids going to Deal Middle School or my Latino kids going to Wilson High School wondering if they’re gonna get searched or arrested on the way home for smokin or whatever you have in your pocket to cure what ails you– just to enjoy a beautiful day with a jay up on Deal Hill– (AFTER school!) May God Bless you, and continue your education in peace with our white brothers who love to do the SAME thing.
    Save your money and get a vaporizer. I’m not sure about Rock Creek Forest National Park or Deal Hill since they are National Parks.
    Hopefully we can all find a place to vape and/or smoke our bowls in peace.

    Decriminalization is NOT legalization.

    Until the day an 11-month old baby can’t be pulled from its mother’s breast for the medicine momma chooses to keep her alive and healthy this movement is not over.

  11. I have noticed that a NORML meeting is going to be held in Asheville, NC at the end of March. I will be there because, I would like to see North Carolina change their laws instead of me having to move to another state. I am sixty, and it would be hard for me to move away because I am handicapped and I have family here. But, my house is up for sale, and if it means my peace of mind(PTSD, BIPOLAR) I will be leaving here if I don’t see change in this state.

  12. In Utah, (I retired here from the military) it will likely be the last place to join other states for recreation, however med oil lol for seizures was just approved. I will appreciate medicinal as I have had a time of body parts being replaced and have chronic pain and it helps with menopause hot flashes…

  13. The first time I ever met someone from NORML was at the National Mall, 1993 on July 4th, in front of the Washington Monument. I was 15. I had just moved back east from Texas and went to see the fireworks with my old man. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I was separated momentarily through the crowd of picnic blankets and ice coolers. (people used to get soooo drunk on the Mall).
    Just then, a pretty girl with long, dirty blonde hair walked up to me and asked if I wanted to participate in a smoke out to protest marijuana prohibition. My first response was “sure…” (something about young women who smoke weed is attractive… They’re so… healthy… They retain all their baby fat in all the right places)… “but…” I continued, “Are you sure that risking getting arrested by riling up the Secret Service is a good way to protest? I mean, I don’t smoke weed,” (didn’t until I was 18 cuz I was worried it would “kill your brain cells, son!” like Morgan Freeman said in the movie “Lean On Me.”) “but I know what NORML stands for cuz of Willie Nelson and I do support legalization.”
    “Really?” (Wow, I even remember how the sunlight flashed off her eyelashes). “And you dont smoke? Thats cool. Well, here’s a flyer if you ever want to join.” She shrugged, looked at me from under her eyelashes and said, “enjoy the fireworks…”
    As she left me with my head turning, my jaw dropped and my heart pounding, I was unable to find the breath to say, “Damn! I need to start smoking some WEED!” My eyes followed her all the way to a booth where two older guys were laughing at my best impression of a lost puppy looking for its momma. I bet I looked pretty funny. I was like, waittaminute, Who rejected who?
    So the million dollar question for the million marijuana march is does the National Mall, which is Federal property, fall under the DC City Council’s juristiction during an event with a million people? During Independence Day celebrations, the Secret Service is everywhere and you cant get passed them if you want to sit on the White House lawn. But they really do have bigger fish to fry. I remember once more recently, I forgot I had a pocket knife while I was waiting in line for the White House lawn. I snuck the knife into some bushes and an agent attending a busy metal detector actually caught my eye. He gave me an eye-rolling grimace and I looked back apologetically, but they let me through anyway. He casually walked towards the bushes and I went to hear the O’Jays open up “For the Love of Money.” These guys are so busy, the S.S. Doesn’t have time for weed smokers in a large crowd.
    And besides, most of the law enforcement at these events are D.C. police offers, under juristiction of the City.
    And at this point, would the President or Congress want to claim responsibility for the field day the press would have on violent arrests during a peaceful marijuana protest?
    Plus, so many people use vaporizers now, the smoke doesn’t even have to be a nouissance.
    I think if we’re going to plan something this big, we would have to organize bus loads of freedom tokers trained in non-violent civil disobedience. A march would require a concerted effort from all pro cannabis non for profits including but not limited to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project.
    The preparation would be massive. But so would the support. Think of the publicity and sponsorships. Everyone from Jeff Bezos at Amazon.com to the Wal-Mart family would donate to logistics. Greyhound could donate buses like they did during the Civil Rights movement; (A fair exchange from stopping buses and switching drivers for the DEA at state borders).
    Willie Nelson could sing. Norm could speak. And the whole world would stop turning and listen to our CanniBill of Rights;
    -The right to grow our own cannabis
    -The right to self medicate
    -The right to smoke, vaporize or ingest nonviolent cannabis without the fear of incarceration, discrimination or prosecution.
    -The right to live sustainable lives using cannabis for food, fuel, medicine and building materials.
    -The right to live in an environment free of marijuana drug testing, where what one consumes in the privacy of their home does not subject them to the humiliation of submissive urinals, job loss and possible incarceration.
    -The right for a mother to seek cannabis medication to properly care for and love her child without the fear of the Department of Health and Human Services from taking custody of and adopting her baby to a potentially violent, private foster care facility for profit.
    -That this same Health and Human Services relinquishes the immoral hypocrisy of taking state custody of children whose parents consume marijuana for medication while simultaneously owning the patent to cannabinoids for neuroprotective therapuetic use.
    -The right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness must never be unconstitutionally prohibited by an unjust Controlled Substances Act that seeks to deny cancer treatment with false claims that marijuana is not medicine.
    -The right to ALL life to share the patent of plants and seedbearing plants God made for man to use, so that men and women of all ages, creed, nationalities including the sick and imprisoned may sing together in harmony that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, we are all truly free at last, free at last, praise God almighty we are free at last!

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