District Of Columbia’s Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance Goes Into Effect Tonight

A new District ordinance reducing marijuana possession penalties to a $25.00 fine-only violation goes into effect at midnight tonight.

Washington, DC City Council members overwhelmingly approved the legislation, entitled “The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act,” this past spring. The measure amends District law involving the possession or transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a civil violation (punishable by a $25.00 fine, no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record).

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.

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

Weeks ago, Congressman Andrew Harris (R-MD) introduced a language to undermine the implementation of this act. However, that provision remains pending and is strongly opposed by the White House.

The District’s $25.00 fine-only 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.

23 thoughts

  1. Closer but no cigar— “cannabis-related paraphernalia” downgraded to violation is not enough. The law still discriminates in favor of H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxcide rolling papers which can be possessed without any fine or penalty on the premise that they are for tobacco, or which are easy to hide, quickly used up etc. compared to a vaporizer or a flexible drawtube one-hitter.

    The $igarette industry pays the politicians to discriminate not only against cannabis and for tobacco, but against safer ingesting procedures in favor of the high-profit combustion $igarette format.

  2. Finally an anti-marijuana law that isn’t a criminally stupid waste of law enforcement.

    See Norml? This is a legal anti-marijuana law. It doesn’t require the police to lie in court for it to be applied or to maintain public support.

    Now we are where we were supposed to be back in 1975. Yay!

  3. This is encouraging and a step in the right direction, but I can not believe the hypocrisy that marijuana possession is still punishable with a fine when someone can purchase an unlimited amount of alcohol without risking any penalty. hopefully, marijuana will be legalized altogether in Washington DC soon.

  4. Congress needs to puff-puff/pass “The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act” for the States of the Union!

    “The U.S. Constitution provided for a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress and the District is therefore not a part of any U.S. state.”


  5. This is really good to read. Here in Massachusetts it is just $100 fine (civil citation) for possession of anything under one ounce.

  6. Congressman Andrew Harris (R-MD) – I would like to thank you for reminding all of us why we should not vote for you in the next election! prohibitionists beware, your days are numbered.

  7. Beware of backward progress!! Although many of these new marijuana reform laws seem to be a step in the right direction, we should be carefull that we dont give up future progress for immidiate reform. Some politicians will stop at nothing to have thier way (http://blogs.rollcall.com/hill-blotter/d-c-officials-say-no-thanks-to-house-marijuana-hearing/?dcz=) They act like children , flat out refusing to participate in forward progression by not supporting reform laws in any way or putting contradictions in the laws.

  8. @ Jim, yeah that whole bit about putting contradictions in the laws is actually a symptom of mental illness. Doing harm to people simply because you don’t like them or their politics and using marijuana as an excuse for the criminal behavior of wrongful arrest and stealing money just goes to show some of these goons really do hate freedom.

    “You belong in jail.” “Why?” “‘Cause marijuana.” It is daft. Stop finding people guilty of non-crimes folks. That will send these fucked up laws back for immediate remedy, not whenever they stop being lazy about it.

  9. They can pass stupid laws, but juries do not have to enforce them. This is a trick they have been using, telling the juries they “have to find them guilty even if you personally disagree with the law.”

    Sorry, but those jury instructions are illegal. The law is, you do *not* find people guilt of breaking a law you find reprehensible.

  10. It takes a great long inhale of a pause to appreciate the chronological irony from when I graduated from high school at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington D.C.
    So many black friends and latino friends arrested for what my white friends did the same… smoke a joint. Being white myself, I never understood the discrimination unless I was hanging out with my brown-skinned friends and we were ushered along by faculty, or harassed by officers. Now a black President comes to the defense of the City where a mostly white Congress wants to undermine the D.C. City Council’s decision? To those of us barely following legalization efforts, this all must seem par for the course. But I can only imagine how monumental this must feel for those of us who have been in this movement since the early seventees. Congratulations NORML! And THANK you to all you retiring, well educated baby-boomers who know what’s good for you. Keep up the good work.
    This law is the best step in the right direction to bring hope and socioeconomic equality this nation has seen since the Civil Rights Act. Congress has made their bed on this issue. Now they have to sleep in it.
    As the story of marijuana prohibition unravels before our eyes, I envision a near future with people using vaporizers on the White House lawn, on down through the mall to the Washington monument, watching the July 4th celebration, with people of all walks of life celebrating and enjoying the freedom we have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to attain. And I wouldn’t blame any President if they looked out over the balcony at the waves of people, socializing and laughing in a rolling National BarB-Q Smoke Out, and out of his coat pocket pulled a pen-vape full of Maui-Wowie… and inhaled and enjoyed a good long, lung full of freedom.
    Change is coming soon after all.

  11. Not to long ago there was 0 support for reform in the Senate. I don’t know if that is still the case.

    I love to see Obama veto it, citing federalism and home rule.

  12. How is DC’s “law” decrim if one can still be issued a “ticket”. Decrim means NOTHING, not something.

    [Paul Armentano responds: Decriminalization is defined as a removal of criminal penalties. The DC statute removes criminal penalties for minor marijuana possession.]

  13. Even in places where it is legal, medically or recreational, there is still regulations and laws that can get you in trouble. there will never be “nothing” . And it should be regulated just like any other industry. You cant brew 500 gallons of beer and call it personal use.

  14. prohibition feeds crime … stripping away rights will only hold the people for so long… “history is written or unwritten by the victors” time to stand up and say with your fists in air “I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!!!!!!!!!!!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkUl-zn27ps – See more at: http://blog.norml.org/2014/07/14/the-white-house-opposes-congressional-attempts-to-hinder-dc-marijuana-reform/comment-page-1/#comment-656257

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