Washington D.C. City Council member David Grosso says he plans to submit a recreational legalization measure before city leaders September 17 when the council returns from summer recess.
Grosso’s plan – which is similar to laws passed in Colorado last year – would legalize and regulate the sale, cultivation and possession of limited amounts of cannabis in the nation’s capital. The announcement comes on the heels of a decriminalization measure proposed in June that would make an ounce or less a $100 fine instead of a criminal offense has ten of the 13 council member’s support.
While the decriminalization measure seems to have a good chance of moving forward, a legalization bill would likely face some big obstacles. Congress would have to approve the law, which some say would pretty much force their hand on the issue at the federal level. Even some of his colleagues who support the decriminalization measure say legalization would go too far.
“The motivation for decriminalization simply has been the issue of the war on drugs and the disproportionate impact on African-American youths getting criminal records,” D.C. Council member Tommy Wells told the Washington Times. “The impetus behind legalization would be, ‘This substance is OK and should be regulated.’ That’s fundamentally a different initiative.”
Grosso tells the Times that he’s a realist about his chances but says that the issue has to be raised.
“I’m not holding my breath this year, but I’m hoping to get the debate out there,” Grosso said. “If we’re going to have alcohol legal in this country, I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t have marijuana legal.”
Currently, possession of any amount is a criminal misdemeanor charge in D.C. with up to six months incarceration and $1,000 in fines. Cultivation and distribution are both unclassified criminal offenses with between six months and five years in jail and $1,000 to $50,000 in fines.