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DC City Council Committee to Hold Hearings on Marijuana Decriminalization

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director October 23, 2013

    The DC City Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will hold public hearings on legislation introduced earlier this year by Councilman Tommy Wells, B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013. The measure will receive two public hearings, one on Wednesday evening from 6:30pm until 9:00pm at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library located at 1800 Good Hope Road SE. The hearing will reconvene Thursday at 11:30am in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building located at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW.

    NORML will be testifying along with other allied groups in favor of this legislation. The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act would make the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by those 18 years of age or older a civil violation, punishable by a $100 fine. Currently, the possession of any amount of marijuana in the District of Columbia is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months incarceration or a maximum $1,000 fine. A survey conducted by Public Policy Polling earlier this year found that 75% of DC residents support this reform.

    A live stream of the hearings should be available here, the video will also be archived on the City Council website for viewing at a later date.

    If you live in DC and can’t attend the hearing, you can quickly and easily contact your City Council member in support of this measure by clicking here.

    You can read NORML’s testimony below:

    Written Testimony Regarding B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013, Before the DC City Council, Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety

    By Erik Altieri, Communications Director
    NORML | NORML Foundation
    Washington, DC
    October 24, 2013

    NORML applauds the members of the City Council for holding this hearing regarding the decriminalization of personal use amounts of marijuana.

    B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013 reduces minor marijuana possession penalties (those involving the possession of 1 ounce or less) from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $1000 fine, to a civil infraction punishable by a fine only. This common sense, fiscally responsible proposal will cut costs, improve public safety, and have a positive impact on the quality of life of thousands of adults in the District of Columbia.

    This Measure Will Improve The Quality Of Life For DC Citizens

    In 2011, about 4,300 District citizens were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana at the estimated cost of over 20 million dollars. These arrests disproportionately effect people of color, with African American residents being arrested at 8 times the rate of their white counterparts despite similar use rates. This statistic makes the District 2nd in the nation when it comes to racial disparities, falling just behind Iowa. While only accounting for 51.6% of the population, people of color account for more than 90% of all marijuana arrests. Passage of this measure would spare many of these citizens from criminal arrest, prosecution, and incarceration, as well as the emotional and financial hardships that follow — including the loss of certain jobs, students loans, federal and state subsidies, and child custody rights.

    Most adult marijuana users act responsibly. They are not part of the crime problem and they should not be treated like serious criminals. This legislation would maintain monetary sanctions for marijuana possession violations, but would spare offenders from being saddled with lifelong criminal records. This change would continue to discourage marijuana abuse, while halting the practice of permanently criminalizing thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

    B20-0409 Will Cut Costs And Improve Public Safety

    Law enforcement resource allocation is a zero-sum gain. The time that a police officer spends arresting and processing minor marijuana offenders is time when he or she is not out on the streets protecting the public from more significant criminal activity. Passage of this bill would allow law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts to re-allocate their existing resources toward activities that will more effectively target serious criminal behavior and keep the public safe. In recent years, lawmakers in California (2010), Connecticut (2011) and Vermont (2013) have enacted similar legislation for these reasons. To date, these laws are working as lawmakers intended.

    District Residents Strongly Support Decriminalization

    Public opinion strongly favors such a reprioritization of law enforcement resources. Marijuana ‘decriminalization,’ as proposed under The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act, presently enjoys support from the majority of Americans. According to a DC poll conducted by Public Policy Polling earlier this year, 75 percent of D.C. residents support decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

    Contrary to the concerns of some, the passage of this legislation would not negatively impact marijuana use patterns or attitudes. Passage of similar legislation in other states has not led to increased marijuana use or altered adolescents’ perceptions regarding the potential harms of drug use. In fact, the only United States government study ever commissioned to assess whether the enforcement of strict legal penalties positively impacts marijuana use found, “Overall, the preponderance of the evidence which we have gathered and examined points to the conclusion that decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people.”

    Support Public Safety: Vote ‘Yes’ On The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act

    The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act seeks to reduce government expenditures and promote public safety. These are goals that lawmakers should support. It makes no sense to continue to treat responsible adult cannabis consumers as criminals. While NORML encourages the Council to approve this measure, we hope that you will also continue to pursue further marijuana law reforms. Amending this legislation to include limited personal cultivation of several marijuana plants would allow consumers to have an alternative source instead of continuing to funnel money into the black market. Ultimately, we urge the Council to consider moving further, to a system that regulates marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, which would put marijuana commerce in the hands of regulated businesses and away from criminal elements. Thank you for your time and consideration of this measure.

    15 Responses to “DC City Council Committee to Hold Hearings on Marijuana Decriminalization”

    1. Julian says:

      A public hearing? At the Anacostia Library? Can someone get some video in there? I want to SEE that! Some fed-up mother is going to TESTIFY!

    2. scott says:

      still illegal, still tested for at work, open for another Ronald Regan type attack. waste of an afternoon.

    3. mexweed says:

      Draw up an amendment exempting possession of less than one gram (forty tokes @ 25mg each) from being defined as an infraction subject to any fines. (A gram is 1/28.35 of an ounce.)

    4. Rebecca says:

      I don’t understand what the point is in all this “legal in this state, legal in that state”. If no goes after the FEDERAL government to make it legal it’s all just a joke and waste of time. People who have legitimate growing operations are harassed all out of their driveway is watched. You aren’t allowed to have it in your system for work. Although you can be loaded up on Vicodin or whatever heavy narcotic & be just fine. IT A JOKE!!!!

    5. scott says:

      drug testing is on the rise. they will use things like this to defend it saying more avalible, more use. My step daughter is on her way to take one right now for a hardware store.
      BTW can A Colorado state trooper use “legal marijuana” because I know he can sit down with the mayor and have a drink, because alcohol is legal in Colorado…what about marijuana?

    6. Demonhype says:

      @scott: It’s on the rise right now because it’s an extinction burst. Ignorant people in power think it will keep them safer. Once MJ is legalized and finally accepted across the board, drug testing will eventually fall to the wayside because MJ users will be protected legally and 98% of all positives tests are for MJ. MJ artificially pads the numbers of this scam industry, and they know it, which is why they are giving the hard sell in non-legalized states. On the other hand, in my job search, I found companies that were testing in every state except Colarado–huge evidence that legalization affects drug testing.

      It will eventually die, believe me. We are nearing the halfway point for MMJ and we have two legalized states. We have jumped 10% in a single year, giving us a huge majority that is only getting bigger. We are going to win this, the Drug War will end, and the Drug War’s criminal law enforcement methods–including drug testing–will die.

      But keep in mind, these bastards have money and they won’t go without a fight. Hence my suggestion on the “58% support” post here that we perhaps make an effort to do as much of our shopping as possible at companies/stores that don’t drug test, and perhaps begin to write letters to companies that do test informing them of our disapproval and that they are winning pretty much zero PR points from us on this. And, of course, letters congratulating the companies that don’t test, encouraging them to continue respecting and valuing their employees and their employees’ rights. This isn’t impossible–I live in a non-legalized state (as in not even medical), and I have managed for the last four years or so to only spend money explicitly at non-testing stores. It can be done, believe me, and now that we have the numbers we could make an impact on this violation of the American people.

      @Rebecca: That is a common myth, that drug testing tests for drugs in the system. Drug testing actually tests for metabolytes that are after-effects of your body metabolyzing a particular substance, and those metabolytes are shared by many OTC meds and foods–people are still losing jobs or getting arrested because of cross-reactivity between the metabolytes for heroin and poppy seeds, for example.

      Drug testing does nothing to reduce drug use in the workplace, and studies have shown that they actually increase hard drug use in the workplace. Drug testing does not test for the actual drug but for metabolytes after the fact, and the metabolytes for the hard drugs are water-based and flush out of our systems within 24 to 48 hours, while MJ metabolytes are fat-based and remain in the system for up to 3 months. The chances of catching anyone on cocaine or heroin is almost nil, so drug testing actually makes hard drug users more employable and drives MJ users to hard drugs so they can find work.

      Drug testing doesn’t make drug users unemployable, it only makes MJ users unemployable while improving the situation for hard drug users AND the drug lords/dealers who supply them.

      Spread the truth about this! Drug testing does not test for the actual drug! We really need to combat this myth the drug testing industry had promoted for thirty years, and we need to promote the facts that drug testing actually makes the workplace a less safe and productive place. We have the numbers now, people!

    7. Demonhype says:

      @Rebecca: What I meant to say is that regarding drug testing, it’s not that you aren’t allowed to have drugs in your system at work, it’s that you aren’t allowed to have the metabolytes, in that you aren’t even allowed to smoke MJ off-the-clock at home where it doesn’t affect the workplace one iota. They aren’t testing you for the drugs, they are testing you to find out what you do at home in your private time.

      They claim this is for safety, despite the fact that there are no studies outside of the ones they bought and paid for that show this to be true. And it’s not really their true purpose anyway. The true purpose is to make sure users are unemployable, the theory being that if they make users unemployable they will stop using. The reality is that they don’t stop using, they just go to the harder drugs that are like a needle in a haystack to find. If they were really concerned about workplace safety, they’d have a breathalyzer on the timeclock, because the effects of illicit drugs on the workplace are minute and negligible, and entirely dwarfed by a huge magnitude by alcohol.

      I would also suggest that drug testing was intended to get the population used to the idea that their bodies and lives are not their own. Are you shocked that our employers think they should have the right to decide what kind of health insurance we can have, and that they feel they should have a deciding vote in what medical treatments or medicines you should have access to? Why are you surprised, if you pissed in a cup to get the job you have pretty much written off your physical rights to privacy or to any bodily autonomy! You gave your employer an intimate physical sample to test as he/she pleased and just trusted that employer to test ONLY for illicit drugs and not, for example, for pregnancy or diabetes or heart medication, while your employer at the same time made it clear that he/she regarded you as little more than a criminal who can never be trusted to the point that they should have perpetual access to the inside of your body for search purposes (and believe me, drug test samples have been used to test for all sorts of things that are NOT illicit drugs).

      Are you surprised your employer requires that you turn over all your personal email and social networking usernames and passwords for review and/or perpetual monitoring (or, in lieu of that, required you “friend” them on facebook so they could keep tabs on your private life)? Why are you surprised, if you took a drug test you have just allowed them a much more intimate look at your personal life. You have already allowed them access to the inside of your body to get the job and, increasingly, allowed them perpetual access to the inside of your body whenever they demand it in the case of random. You have already allowed your employer to violate you in a much more intimate way than just monitoring your facebook page, so how much more of a violation can it be to just give them those private email and facebook passwords? You’ve already accepted that you have no rights and your boss owns you lock, stock and barrel, which is what drug testing was intended from day one to do: to create a bovine acceptance of corporate ownership of individual citizens, right down to their very flesh. It was intended to acclimate us to having our employers conduct criminal investigations on us without cause, something even the cops aren’t legally allowed to do, and is, in fact, a subcontracting of 4th Amendment rights violations to the private sector–“private company, they can do what they want” my a$$, I’ll believe that when the government stops using my tax money to subsidize violations of my civil rights, thereby artificially making drug testing cost-effective.

      If you accept drug testing, you might as well accept corporate cameras and microphones recording your every action in the privacy of your home.

    8. scott says:

      they’re also gonna start testing welfare people. So here are the lucky groups:

      high school students- drug tested
      people in the workforce- drug tested
      poor people- drug tested

      all that leaves is people on social security. And independently wealthy and your car insurance company is in talks right now about testing YOU TOO!
      If you don’t fix that cook your own cheeseburger, I quit!

    9. scott says:

      okay, we first need to boycott the entire state of florida because here they test telemarketers, sign holders, and car wash employees. Not to mention students and welfare people.

      Second, I don’t ACCEPT DRUG TESTING, or want cameras in my home, but I have this awful habit of paying bills, and having shelter. So heres what the 58% will have to do.

      buy some property with a stream running through it. learn to fish for food and pitch a tent to sleep in because if you want to be in any part of society they are going to drug test you.

      If you think I support this you’re wrong. I am actually trying to make you see that this is an equal part of it. Nobody wants to go to jail, but the only reason to worry about a criminal record is for employment purposes, which they covered in these hearings, but………

      clean criminal record + thc in urine = unemployed

      possession of marijuana on record + negative urine = unemployed

    10. mexweed says:

      What @Demonhype says about hard drugs goes for the main Alternative, nicotine $igarettes. $igarette companies have a million ways of funding the scare and blame propaganda against cannabis that underlies this testing discrimination. I suspect many companies are more afraid of being accused of hiring a cannabis user than of the harm a user would do.

      One way to react is: study and practice work which you can self-employ yourself at, like imaginative do-it-yourself scrap-lumber-based carpentry, and be an entrepreneur. When at the internet computer, look for how-to guides, internalize directions, have a toke right before hands-on work, reach out for marketing partners, bone up on how to use Craigslist etc. Forget working “for” a drugtest employer, work for everybody.

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