The D.C. Council will consider decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Councilmember Tommy Wells introduced the bill Wednesday, and nine of his 12 colleagues signed on as co-introducers or co-sponsors. It was prompted in part by an American Civil Liberties Union report that found the District of Columbia leads the nation in per capita arrests for marijuana possession. The report also found that about 90 percent of those arrested for possession are black.
The bill would make possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine. Seventeen states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot. The district has also legalized medical marijuana.
Mayor Vincent Gray has not taken a position on decriminalization, but a spokesman says "he welcomes the discussion."
Chief Lanier's comment on Marijuana Decriminalization Bill
Today, proposed legislation to decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana was introduced in Council. This is a significant issue that merits robust discussion on a broad spectrum of issues, including concerns about the risk to children with increased access, the health impact of increasingly potent plants, and conflict with federal laws. In the meantime, it is important for the community to recognize that some of the information being used as an argument for decriminalization is flawed. As I believe our community members know, MPD has not prioritized marijuana arrests. Since day one, my priority has been combating violent crime, and the District is safer as a result. Marijuana users are simply not being targeted in the manner suggested by a recent report from the ACLU and by many advocates for decriminalization. To learn more about the flaws in the ACLU report, please read my letter to the editor that was recently published in The Washington Post:
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