By: Amanda Froelich,
It took more than 15 years for D.C. lawmakers to allow cancer patients to use marijuana for their pain, but in just a few months city leaders have coalesced around a plant to decriminalize small joints, blunts, or bowls full of marijuana in the nation’s capital.
According to The Washington Post, 10 of 13 Washington D.C. council members signed a bill Thursday to decriminalize up to an ounce of cannabis within the city limits. Proposed by council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) earlier this year, the bill calls for fines no larger than $100.
“Less than one ounce would not be a crime,” explained Wells. “That would no longer mean a drug arrest record.”
Even more, Wells and the office of the attorney general said they could be able to come to an agreement on fines as low as $25.
The move came as a result of a two-part public hearing arranged by Wells and Marion Berry (D-Ward 8), at which council members heard testimony in regards to The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013. Among other organizations, NORML spoke in favor of the bill, and Major Vincent C. Gray (D) said he also supports it.
With that, it was stressed by Mayor Gray that it is decriminalization, not legalization, that he is in favor of. “I support decriminalization. Legalization is another issue. I’m not here on that issue, yet” he explained.
Such a move won’t go as far as changes made in Colorado in Washington state, where marijuana has been legalized, but it will reduce the jail time and fine for violating such a law. If passed, it will also make the district only second behind Alaska as the most forgiving state to be found with possession.
A likely explanation for this recent event may be from the results of two polls that placed Washington D.C. among the worst for racial disparity in regards to marijuana arrests. One by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs in particular found that 9 out of 10 people arrested for simple drug possession in the District area are black.
“Punishment for drug crimes disproportionally falls on the shoulders of blacks and Latinos,” Wells said. “We don’t want to accuse the police, we don’t want to accuse anybody… but it is a major societal justice problem, and we are going to fix it.”
Alongside other breakthroughs for the political acceptance of Marijuana (See: Uruguay First Country to Legalize Marijuana and 8 States Attempting to Legalize Marijuana), this may be just one more critical step in allowing the use of medicinal plants for public use alongside pharmaceutical drugs.