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

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 4, 2014

    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 responses to “District Of Columbia: City Council Finalizes Vote Decriminalizing Pot Possession Offenses”

    1. Next step, legalization!!! Glad Obama isn’t stopping this. We gotta hurry before Hillary Nannystate Clinton gets elected.

    2. JAY says:

      Time for Wisconsin to wake up

    3. Quamie says:

      Another win…keep ’em coming. Everyone, write to your politicians

    4. Let’s hope this has a strong effect on Virginia. Virginia is for Pot Lovers!

    5. Galileo Galilei says:

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

      Remember Bob Barr?

    6. Dusty says:

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

    7. Fumester says:

      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…

    8. Janet says:

      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!

    9. 420Elite says:

      I would love to just pay a fine and go on about my business. I think its 4:20 time!

    10. kevin says:

      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.]