Moments ago, the Washington, D.C. City Council voted to decriminalize marijuana possession!
The measure removes criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for individuals 18 years of age and older and replaces them with a civil fine of $25, similar to a parking ticket. It also removes penalties for possession of paraphernalia in conjunction with small amounts of marijuana, and it specifies that individuals cannot be searched or detained based solely on an officer’s suspicion of marijuana possession. Public use of marijuana would remain a criminal offense punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
The bill goes into effect this summer.
This means that, outside of Washington and Colorado, marijuana penalties are now less punitive in our nation’s capital than anywhere else in the country.
Washington, D.C. has the nation’s highest arrest rate for marijuana possession, according to a report released in June by the American Civil Liberties Union. Blacks accounted for 91% of marijuana possession arrests in the District, and they were eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite using marijuana at similar rates. The ACLU’s analysis concluded that enforcing marijuana possession laws, which make up nearly half of all drug offenses, costs the District more than $26.5 million per year. Hopefully, this new bill will have an immediate impact on this injustice.
UPDATE: MPP posted new billboards in response to anti-marijuana billboards posted near the Super Bowl.
On Tuesday, MPP unveiled a series of billboards surrounding MetLife Stadium, site of the upcoming Super Bowl, that have been getting a lot of attention. These ads highlight the fact that marijuana is objectively safer than both alcohol and football, and call on the NFL to stop punishing players for using the safer option.
This is especially noteworthy this year, as the two teams playing in the Super Bowl are the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, both of whose home states made marijuana legal for adults in 2012.
Here’s a picture of one of the ads from the ground, and you can view the rest on our website.
On Wednesday, MPP’s Mason Tvert presented a Change.org petition calling on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to get rid of the policy of punishing players for using marijuana. The petition currently has more than 12,000 signatures.
Earlier today, MPP released a new poll finding that a clear majority of Rhode Islanders support “changing Rhode Island law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol.” Fifty-three percent of Rhode Island voters favor marijuana policies similar to those in Colorado, where adults 21 and over can purchase marijuana from regulated stores; only 41% oppose this policy change. If you are a Rhode Island resident, please take a brief moment to call both your state representative and your state senator and ask them to support ending marijuana prohibition in 2014.
Over the past couple of years, it’s become apparent that marijuana prohibition is coming to an end. It is no longer a question of if Rhode Island will legalize marijuana for adults and regulate it like alcohol, but when. Passing legislation this session will allow the state to begin creating hundreds of much-needed jobs and realizing tens of millions in annual tax revenue. With the state facing a $150 million budget hole and Rhode Island having the highest unemployment rate in the nation, let your lawmakers know now is the time to end marijuana prohibition in the Ocean State.
On Monday, CNN released a new poll showing 55% of Americans support making marijuana legal. Only 44% were opposed.
According to the CNN poll and numbers from General Social Survey polling, support for legalizing marijuana has steadily soared over the past quarter century – from 16% in 1987 to 26% in 1996, 34% in 2002, and 43% two years ago.
The survey found interesting divides on the issue.
“There are big differences on age, region, party ID, and gender, with senior citizens, Republicans, and Southerners the only major demographic groups who still oppose the legal use of pot,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
This increase in public support will no doubt affect legislation across the country in the coming years. Here is MPP’s Mason Tvert on CNN discussing how legal adult marijuana sales in Colorado may act as a catalyst for reforms in many other states:
Rep. Sherry Jones has taken an important step for seriously ill patients in Tennessee and introduced a medical marijuana bill, HB 1385.
Rep. Sherry Jones
The bill, known as the Koozer-Kuhn Medical Cannabis Act, would establish a regulatory system similar to those adopted in 20 other states and the District of Columbia. Rep. Jones recently told WRCB-TV that the bill is “simply a matter of being rational and compassionate.”
The bill is named after Piper Koozer, a child from Tennessee who suffers from a very serious seizure disorder related to Aicardi syndrome. Piper’s family believes he would benefit from a non-psychoactive component in medical marijuana known as CBD, but relocated to Colorado until Tennessee law changes. Jeanne Kuhn passed away after a battle with cancer, but benefitted from the use of medical marijuana toward the end of her life. She was considered a criminal under Tennessee law for the use of medical marijuana to help alleviate her suffering.
If you are a Tennessee resident, please take a moment to send an email message to your representative and senator to ask for their support for this bill.