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DC City Council Gives Initial Approval to Marijuana Decriminalization

rethinklogohd1Today, the DC City Council voted in favor of the Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act, which would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and reclassify it as a civil infraction, punishable by a $25 ticket and no criminal record. Councilwoman Yvette Alexander was the only member who voted in opposition to this measure.

Council Chairman Phil Mendleson introduced an amendment to bill to remove the provision that decriminalized public consumption and made it a civil infraction punishable by a $100 fine. Despite concerns voiced by Councilmen Wells and Grosso, the amendment was adopted and if the measure were to be approved as amended, public consumption of marijuana would remain a criminal offense subject to arrest.

Before it is sent to the mayor’s desk for approval, this legislation must receive another vote from the council. This vote is expected to occur in early March, at which time the council could also overturn Chairman Mendleson’s amendment. NORML and our allies will be advocating for such change, as continuing to criminalize the public consumption of marijuana will only perpetuate racially disparate arrests and have an adverse impact on the communities this measure was supposed to help most. If approved in the second vote and signed by Mayor Grey, the legislation enters a 30 day review period at which point Congress can chose whether or not to allow it to go forward, however opposition to this policy change in the city is not expected at the federal level.

DC RESIDENTS: Click here to contact the DC City Council and urge them to support this measure and oppose the recent amendment regarding public consumption.

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