Washington D.C. adults (and minors) packing up to an ounce of weed on them can breathe a little easier today walking around town, as decriminalization laws went into effect that makes having ounce or less a civil infraction with a fine of $25.
That is a huge improvement from how things were yesterday, when those same residents were facing misdemeanor charges, six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The new law also means that cops can’t really do anything if they happen to smell raw marijuana on someone. Cops also can’t require someone with under an ounce to show them an ID because marijuana possession isn’t technically a crime.
But watch out, not all of the city is actually the city. A large chunk of D.C. is federal land, and marijuana possession there is still illegal. So, don’t go toking up at Lincoln’s feet and expect to simply walk a few bucks lighter in the wallet if you get caught. The same goes for people in federal housing – getting caught there can jeopardize your living situation. Also, having more than an ounce will still get you arrested in D.C.
Toking up in public remains illegal, but possession of marijuana paraphernalia like pipes, papers, bongs and one-hitters are also now decriminalized. Selling pot is still illegal, but giving another person an ounce or less falls under the new civil infraction laws.
Oh, and if the cops bust you they have to take your pot.
Gwendolyn Crump, spokeswoman for the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, said police will follow the new directive.
The move should help curb some of the racially-biased arrests in the city. According to the ACLU, D.C. had the highest rate of marijuana possession arrests in the United States and that around 90 percent of those arrested were black. Figures like that prompted the 10 to 1 D.C. City Council vote in favor of decriminalization earlier this year.
“I think we’re going to see a real positive change in the District of Columbia,” Councilman David Grosso told U.S. News. “We know that every single touch with the criminal justice system, unfortunately, has a negative impact on our residents’ lives.”
The move isn’t very popular with others, though. Congressman Andy Harris, a Republican from Maryland, has attempted to block the decriminalization a well as any future efforts with an amendment attached to a Congressional spending bill. Basically, it would prevent D.C. from using any money “to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any” controlled substance, including marijuana.
Thankfully, most seem to agree that the bill will not be approved as it is written and Harris’s threats aren’t going to come to fruition.
So, in the meantime D.C., rest a little bit easier knowing that a huge tool in oppressing a massive part of your city is no longer accessible to police.