In the District of Columbia, Councilmember David Grosso (I, at large) has introduced a bill, B22-0446, that would allow anyone 21 and over to access a dispensary if they provide a signed affidavit that they are using marijuana for medical purposes and are aware of state and federal marijuana laws. It is being co-sponsored by Robert White (D, at large), Brianne Nadeau (D, Ward 1), and Vincent Gray (D, Ward 7).
This bill would allow many more people to access the regulated dispensary system who are currently forced to shop in the grey market if they are unable to cultivate their own cannabis. It will increase public safety, because disputes in illicit markets are often solved with violence, and protect public health, because consumers will know what they are purchasing. The bill would also give patients a safe, lawful place to consume cannabis outside their home.
Additionally, this bill allows D.C. to move forward in expanding access to cannabis in an environment where Congress is blocking it from setting up adult-use retail stores. It gives people who cannot afford to see a doctor access to this medication and could also facilitate access for people who may be struggling with opioid addiction, for whom studies suggest marijuana can be an “exit drug.”
If you are a D.C. resident, please ask your councilmembers to support this bill.
The District of Columbia held its Democratic primary yesterday, and the results are mostly good news for supporters of marijuana policy reform. Below are the (unofficial) results, along with the grade the council candidates received in MPP’s voter guide:
Ward 2: Jack Evans (A+) won (unopposed)
Ward 4: Incumbent Brandon Todd (F) beat challenger Leon Andrews (A), 49% to 41%
Ward 7: Challenger Vincent Gray (C+) beat incumbent Yvette Alexander (D), 60% to 33%
Ward 8: Challenger Trayon White (C+) beat incumbent LaRuby May (D), 51% to 42%
In the at-large race, all the candidates received an A or A+ from MPP. Challenger Robert White beat incumbent Vincent Orange 40% to 37%.
As the general election on November 8 approaches, MPP plans to update our voter guide to keep you informed on all the candidates’ positions, so stay tuned!
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.
and submitted to Congress for a 60-day review — replaces misdemeanor criminal charges for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil violation, costing the offender $25. Now D.C. has the third-least punitive marijuana laws in the country, behind Colorado and Washington State.
It is important to note that this is only a change in District law, not federal law. Marijuana possession on federal lands, including the National Mall, is still a criminal offense and violators may be arrested and prosecuted. Public use is still illegal as well. Please see our summary of this new law for more information.
Thank you so much to all the individuals and organizations that took part in reforming the previously outdated law. Further reform is still needed, however. If you are a District resident, please contact your council members and urge them to treat marijuana like alcohol.
Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee neutered two marijuana policy reform bills. Instead of considering the proposed policies on their merits, the committee completely amended the content of the bills to create a task force to study the issues. The two bills, SB 364 and HB 880, formerly would have respectively decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana and regulated marijuana similarly to alcohol.
The decriminalization bill, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin, has passed the Senate two years in a row with overwhelming bipartisan support — most recently, last month, in a 36-8 vote.
The Committee acted two days after D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed into law the most lenient decriminalization law in the country, and the same day as a national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 76% of Americans don't think people should be jailed for simple possession.
Last Sunday’s Washington Post included an editorial supporting civil fines for marijuana use, particularly in D.C. The article comes after a similar proposal to the D.C. Council and support from Mayor Vincent Gray. The proposal would remove criminal penalties associated with possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine. After considering public opinion polls, a report by the ACLU, and criminal justice statistics, the Post agrees: possessing marijuana should not make you a criminal.
An all-around better policy, long championed by District lawyer Paul Zukerberg, would be to slap small-time users with a civil fine, which is a measured way to send a message that the government does not condone or tolerate marijuana use. No one’s life would be permanently marred by getting caught with a joint.
Of all the official reactions to changing mores on marijuana, decriminalization is the best.
While we know that simple decriminalization will not solve the problems caused by keeping the marijuana market illegal, the fact that such a major newspaper is coming around is a sure sign of progress.
[caption id="attachment_7039" align="alignright" width="300"] Mayor Vincent Gray[/caption]
On Wednesday, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray stated that he supports decriminalizing marijuana, or removing criminal penalties associated with possession of under one ounce. Currently, those caught with less than one ounce of marijuana in D.C. can be sent to jail for up to six months and fined up to $1,000, and evidence suggests that the laws have had harsh consequences for D.C. residents. According to a study published in June by the ACLU, black residents in D.C. are eight times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white neighbors.
Mayor Gray’s announcement gives more weight to a proposal made by Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) that seeks to remove the harsh criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession and replace them with a civil fine of $100. The proposed bill has the support of a supermajority on the council, and two hearings have been scheduled this week to discuss the measure further.
“I don’t have a position on whether to legalize it or not, but we should have that discussion,” Gray told News Channel 8.
He said that the topic is an important one because current prohibitionist policies result in harmless young people getting criminal records.
The mayor’s statement comes after growing call for reform in the District. On July 10, D.C. Councilmember and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells proposed legislation to remove criminal penalties for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.