DC Moving Towards Legalizing Marijuana

March 17, 2014

In early March, the D.C. Council passed a bill to decriminalize the possession of marijuana.  This bill moves possession from a crime (that would go on your record) to a civil offense with a fine of $25.00.  However, the bill keeps public consumption of marijuana a criminal offense, as well as the sale of marijuana.

Last week, the D.C. Board of Elections passed a measure to allow proponents of the bill to gather the necessary signatures to put it on the ballot for the November election.   If the measure does qualify for the November ballot, it has a strong chance to pass, according to a Washington Post poll.

The tension, of course, is that possession is still a crime under federal law.  So possession of marijuana on the National Mall, which is federal land, would still be a crime.  Possession of marijuana in public housing in the District would still be a crime. Furthermore, there are other gray areas in the bill.  For instance, police officers can make an arrest for the sight of marijuana smoke, but not the smell.

The obvious question is this: if possession is not a crime, but smoking in public or selling marijuana remains a crime, what is the point?  Why would an individual possess marijuana if not to smoke or sell?  Proponents of the bill argue that decriminalization is just a first step, and they are advocating the sale and taxation of marijuana in the future.   Only time will tell.


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