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.
Nearly 30 states, and the District of Columbia are considering marijuana law reform legislation this year, including bills that cover legalization for adults, decriminalization, medical marijuana and hemp. Some states have a variety of reform bills simultaneously pending such as Arizona which is considering legalization and decriminalization, and Pennsylvania which is considering legalization as well as medical marijuana legislation. Here’s a quick breakdown:
14 states are considering legalization: Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
12 states and the District of Columbia are considering decriminalization: Alabama, Arizona, DC, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wyoming.
11 states are considering legislation to establish effective medical marijuana programs: Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
3 states are considering allowing industrial hemp cultivation: Indiana, New York, and Tennessee.
Click here to access NORML’s Action Alerts and quickly and easily contact your elected officials to encourage their support of any pending reform bills. Be sure to keep checking NORML’s Take Action Center to see if your state has joined the list!
On December 5th 1933 at exactly 5:32pm eastern standard time, Utah signed on as the last of the 36 states needed to ratify the 21st amendment, repealing the nation’s failed 13-year prohibition policy experiment banning the sale and use of alcohol nationwide. At 6:55 p.m., President Roosevelt signed an official proclamation announcing the nation’s new alcohol policy.
It was clear to the public, and politicians of the day that alcohol prohibition had failed in everything it was trying to achieve. The 18th amendment led to widespread disrespect for the law, black market violence, serious loss of tax revenue, and a drain on police resources.
Here we are again, eighty years later fighting another, equally damaging policy of marijuana prohibition. Unlike the short lived 18th amendment however, our nation’s punitive and disastrous marijuana laws have been in effect for more than 75 years. The longevity of this current prohibition has resulted in exponentially more damage to our society than that caused by the alcohol laws of the 1920’s and early 30’s. Today’s laws have ruined millions of lives and wasted hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. It has fueled the black market, contributes to the erosion of civil liberties and continues to line the pockets of criminals and cartels.
Eighty years ago today, our President and 36 states came to the same conclusion: That making something a majority of people perceive as harmless and fun illegal will not make it go away, or solve any problems perceived to be associated with its use. It is about managing public safety by containing the market and managing the user experience. The majority of alcohol drinkers and marijuana users are responsible people who consume in moderation. It is time for our lawmakers to recognize what their predecessors did so many years ago, legalization and regulation is the only sensible solution. Colorado and Washington are pioneering a new policy allowing for the legal, taxable sale of marijuana to adults 21+, and it is only a matter of time before more states follow suit. Through an environment of control, standardization and accountability, both for the individual and the industry, our nation can begin to undo the generations of damage brought on by marijuana prohibition.
The days of marijuana prohibition are numbered and one day, marijuana will take its rightful place alongside alcohol as a legal recreational alternative. One day, we too will be celebrating our very own day of repeal.
Did you know you can do your holiday shopping and support marijuana legalization at the same time?
As we close out of Cyber Monday and enter the full swing of the holiday season, you now have the opportunity help a great cause while doing your online holiday shopping at no extra cost. Every Time you make a purchase through the following websites, a percentage of your purchase price will be donated to the NORML Foundation.
iGive: Sign-up through www.igive.com/norml, download the button and start shopping. There’s over 1400 socially-responsible stores helping to make donations happen.
Amazon: When you shop through Amazon, the Amazon Smile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to NORML. Just click here or the link below and start shopping.
Other ways to help NORML during the holiday season: You can make a tax-deductible contribution to the NORML Foundation via check, credit card or PayPal by clicking here. You can also donate stock options, sign up for corporate gift matching (if applicable) and/or incorporate NORML into your will and estate planning.
NORML filed an “amicus curiae” brief with the state supreme appellate court on Friday, November 22, urging the court to enforce the limits on police searches set by 2008′s voter-initiative state decriminalization law, which eliminating police searches and arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Attorneys Michael Cutler of Northampton and Steven Epstein of Georgetown authored the brief.
In this case a Boston judge initially ruled a 2011 police search — based entirely on the smell of unburnt marijuana — violated the “decriminalization” law which made possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction subject only to a fine, thereby ending police authority to search or arrest the possessor. The state appealed.
Earlier in 2011 the state supreme court ruled, in a case in which NORML also filed an amicus brief, that police searches based only on the odor of burnt marijuana were now illegal. The court reasoned that smell alone did not establish probable cause to believe a criminal amount (more than an ounce) was present, so police had no power to search or arrest.
NORML asks the court to reject the Boston prosecutor’s claim that federal prohibition — which allows arrest and imprisonment for any amount of cannabis under federal law — trumps the state decriminalization law and allows police to ignore state law and use evidence from smell-based searches in state courts.
NORML argues that state prosecutors and police must obey state law and state appellate court rulings under the state constitution’s separation of powers doctrine, requiring the executive branch to obey the legislative branch’s laws and the judicial branch’s limits on police conduct under state law and the state’s constitution.
Finally, NORML argues that the state prosecutor’s position violates fundamental principles of Federalism, which limit federal “preemption” of state law only where state law “positively conflicts” with federal law. Since the August 2013 federal Justice Department Guidance memo to federal prosecutors nationwide, recommending no interference with state laws legalizing marijuana in a responsible manner, no such conflict exists between federal and state authority.
Oral argument in the case of Commonwealth v. Craan is scheduled for early February, with a decision possible by June 2014.