Serious marijuana discussion is taking place in our nation’s capitol, if only at the municipal level.
According to the Washington Post, D.C. city council members are trying to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and have a few proposals in the works to do just that.
Councilman and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells said the laws in D.C. are outdate and need to be reexamined. Wells, along with councilman Marion Barry are crafting a bill that would make an ounce or less a civil offense.
“It’s time we enter the 21st century and stop criminalizing people . . . for what is not really a major crime,” Wells told the Post.
Barry – who was arrested with cocaine in a 1990 drug sting while mayor — points out that the arrests of young, black D.C. residents are overwhelmingly disproportionate to whites. “These council members ought to stand up, and I think they will, on behalf of their constituency, who suffers mightily from this archaic situation,” he said.
A third councilmember, Anita Bonds, says she is also considering introducing a decimalization proposal.
And it’s what the people want as well. A Marijuana Policy Project poll in April showed that 75 percent of D.C. residents want at least an ounce of marijuana decriminalized with no more than a $100 fine for punishment. Sixty-three percent of voters in the district favor outright legalization.
But the excitement isn’t shared among every member of the council. Chairman Phil Mendelson says the timing isn’t right for the bill and notes that Congress would have to approve the measure. “I don’t think decriminalization of marijuana will go over easily with congres,” he told the Post.
Other council members have proposed putting the decriminalization measure before voters. But that’s a move that advocates are saying they will do anyway, with or without the council. Steve Fox with the Marijuana Policy Project has hinted at a ballot proposal from activists for 2014 ballot.
Currently, an ounce can get you up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. According to DCist.com, marijuana possession in D.C. has just about doubled in the last ten years, from 2,150 arrests in 2001 to roughly 4,300 arrests in 2011.