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.