The D.C. Board of Elections has officially certified Ballot Initiative 71 for November’s general election. If passed by a majority of D.C. voters, Initiative 71 will repeal all criminal and civil penalties for the personal possession and limited, private cultivation of marijuana. Passage of this initiative will be yet another step towards sensible marijuana policies in our nation’s capital, so make sure your voter registration is current if you are a D.C. resident so you can vote “yes” on November 4.
Initiative 71 will allow adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants — with no more than three being mature — in their private residences. Adults will also be allowed to give away up to an ounce of marijuana, but any sales would still be criminal. The initiative would also remove penalties for using and selling marijuana paraphernalia.
D.C. law forbids imposing a tax via the ballot initiative process, so Initiative 71 does not set up a Colorado like system of taxing and regulating the production and adult retail sales of marijuana. MPP will continue to work with D.C. Council, the mayor’s office, and our allies to see to it that marijuana is treated like alcohol.
Adults should be allowed to use and consume marijuana – which is safer than alcohol – free from penalty, and responsible businesses and the community at large — not criminals — should benefit from the sale and distribution.
On July 29, D.C. Mayor Vince Gray signed the Medical Marijuana Expansion Emergency Amendment Act of 2014. The ordinance takes effect immediately, but it is only temporary, so another measure and Congressional approval are needed to make the compassionate changes permanent.
This temporary law allows physicians to recommend marijuana for any debilitating condition they think would respond favorably to the therapeutic use of marijuana and increases the number of plants D.C.’s licensed cultivators may possess from 95 to 500. This new law will automatically expire on October 27 unless the Council makes passes new legislation.
D.C. physicians participating in the medical marijuana program may now recommend medical marijuana to those suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, and a host of other conditions that were not previously included on a list of qualifying conditions, but whose symptoms have been shown to relent with marijuana use. Increasing the number of plants that cultivators may possess ensures that our seriously ill friends and neighbors have access to the medicine their physicians think will work best for them.
Enactment of temporary legislation gave the Council the time it needs to debate and pass a permanent fix. If you are a District resident, please ask your councilmember to continue to support compassionate legislation and then send this to our fellow Washingtonians who support medical marijuana.
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.
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).
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.”