Tag Archives: D.C.

D.C. Decriminalizes Marijuana

Moments ago, the Washington, D.C. City Council voted to decriminalize marijuana possession!alert_sidebar_dc_decrim

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.

Decriminalization Bill Introduced in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells (D – Ward 6) proposed a bill today that would decriminalize marijuana in the nation’s capital. Possession of up to an ounce would be punishable by a civil fine of $100 rather than by the current threat of jail time. The bill was also backed by Marion Barry (D – Ward 8).

WellsTommy wells told reporters that decriminalization would save youths who are caught with small amounts of marijuana from becoming entangled in the criminal justice system and losing out on future employment opportunities.

The bill has arrived at an interesting time for marijuana reform advocates. Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report which found that D.C. leads the nation in marijuana possession arrests per capita. The study also found that arrests in the District were racially biased: African Americans were eight times more likely than whites to be arrested on marijuana charges. According to D.C. police statistics, there were roughly 4,300 marijuana possession arrests in 2011.

Surveys indicate that a majority of D.C. residents agree with Wells’ proposal. An April poll by Public Policy Polling found that 75% of D.C. residents support decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. Additionally, 63% support taxing and regulating marijuana for adults.

MPP spokesman Morgan Fox was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying, “It is time to adopt a more sensible marijuana policy in our nation’s capital, and that is what Councilman Wells has proposed.”

Poll: 75% of DC Voters Want Marijuana Decriminalized

Three out of four Washington, D.C. voters would support changing District law to replace criminal penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket, according to a survey conducted last week by Public Policy Polling. Two-thirds (67%) said they believe law enforcement resources currently being used by District police to arrest individuals for marijuana possession should be directed toward other crimes.

The poll also found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of District voterswashington-monument-address would support a ballot measure similar to those approved by voters in Colorado and Washington in November, which made marijuana legal for adults and directed state officials to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. A solid majority (54%) said drug use should be treated as a public health issue, and people should no longer be arrested and locked up for possession of a small amount of any drug for personal use.

The survey of 1,621 randomly selected District voters was conducted April 10-11. The full results and crosstabs are available at http://www.mpp.org/DCpoll.

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Seattle Seahawks Beat Washington Redskins: Coincidence?

On Nov. 6 of last year, the state of Washington made the possession and use of marijuana legal for adults. Marijuana remains illegal in Washington, D.C., the home of the Redskins. Last week, the District of Columbia ranked ninth on a list of America’s ‘25 Drunkest Cities,’ while Seattle, home of the Seahawks, didn’t even make the list.

Is it a coincidence that the Seahawks handily beat the Redskins this past Sunday?

Perhaps. (Nevertheless, it is worth noting that both the Seahawks and the Denver Broncos have yet to lose a game at home since their respective states made marijuana legal.)

But we have to wonder why the NFL continues to prohibit marijuana use by players during the off-season, even in states that have made it legal, while simultaneously promoting alcohol use at every game. Moreover, the league continues to prohibit players in those states from using marijuana for medical purposes, despite its proven ability to ease chronic pain – a condition that affects many players.

Perhaps allowing professional athletes to make the choice to use marijuana instead of painkillers could make a difference in their performances. And so could allowing them to use marijuana instead of alcohol when they are relaxing or socializing with friends. Regardless, it is bad policy to continue punishing these athletes simply for making a safer choice.

Photo by Mark Gail/MCT
Photo by Mark Gail/MCT

Obama’s DOJ: A Disaster for Medical Marijuana Patients

Once again, Obama’s DOJ shows no sympathy for medical marijuana patients.

Last April, 12 HIV/AIDS activists were arrested outside of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office as they protested funding cuts to HIV/AIDS and needle exchange programs in D.C. The protesters were offered the standard “Deferred Prosecution Agreement,” requiring them to stay away from the Cannon House Office Building for six months, perform 32 hours of community service, and test negative in three drug tests. If they were able to meet these requirements, the charges against them would be dropped.

Within three months, all of the protestors had completed their community service hours, and 10 of the 12 successfully produced negative drug tests. And this is where the story gets complicated

Two of the protestors, Antonio Davis and David Goode, used medical marijuana, recommended by their physicians, to deal with pain and other side effects caused by their HIV/AIDS treatment regimens. And though both men submitted letters from their doctors verifying their need for medical marijuana and, moreover, were assured by a judge that marijuana would not be screened for, the U.S. attorney for the District refused to honor the original deal spelled out in the Deferred Prosecution Agreement.

Now, the case has been transferred from one prosecutor to another and yet another, with each new prosecutor setting new conditions and requiring more community service time from the protestors. All of the protestors are now being required to complete a third 32-hour stretch of community service … or go to trial.

But because of failed drug screenings, medical marijuana patients Davis and Goode don’t have this option. They must go to trial and could face up to six months in jail. Meanwhile, Davis has stopped using his doctor-recommended marijuana and is suffering both mentally (worrying about possible consequences of a conviction) and physically (losing 20 pounds) because of it.

It’s insane that federal prosecutors are treating these medical marijuana patients so harshly. Marijuana has continually been shown to reduce the nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite caused by HIV/AIDS and by the various medications used to treat HIV/AIDS. Observational research has found that by relieving these side effects, medical marijuana improves the likelihood that patients will adhere to life-prolonging treatments. Furthermore, clinical trials have shown that marijuana can significantly reduce a specific type of pain that often afflicts patients with HIV/AIDS — neuropathy, a painful nerve condition for which there are currently no FDA-approved treatments. (Visit the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research website to view more studies on marijuana’s therapeutic value.)

The story here is just another piece to add to the very puzzling pattern of the Obama administration burying its head in the sand. In the past several months, the administration has cracked down on patients and providers, refused to let a clinical study proceed, and continued to ignore medical evidence … evidence that medical marijuana actually helps sick people! The story here is but one glimpse into the suffering caused by federal obstinance in regard to medical marijuana, and as the old saying goes, “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”