Washington D.C. effectively decriminalized possession of up to one ounce of marijuana July 17, but that hardly means the end to marijuana-related arrests.
According to DCist, there were 26 arrests involving cannabis during the first two weeks of decriminalization– July 17 to July 31– just one less than the amount of citations (27) issued for possession. Data from D.C. Police says the 26 arrests were for public consumption, distribution, possession with the intent to distribute and possession of more than one ounce.
D.C. Ward 6 Councilman (and NORML-endorsed mayoral candidate) Tommy Wells introduced a bill proposing cannabis decriminalization to the city in March 2013, which passed earlier this summer. The penalty carries a $25 ticket for possession of up to an ounce of herb–something that used to potentially carry six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Advocacy groups such as the Drug Policy Alliance, NCAAP and Washington Lawyer’s Group praised the move, hoping it would lower marijuana-related arrests– which ACLU report says is very racially slanted.
Although it’s too early to tell what effect pot decriminalization will have on D.C. crime after just two weeks, the move has drawn praise and criticism from both sides of the debate. Police can’t search or arrest someone for suspected use or smelling like weed, but many cannabis and minority advocacy groups think more changes need to be made in police conduct.
Nearby Maryland Congressman Andy Harris introduced an amendment to block D.C.’s decriminalization bill, which passed in the the House of Representative’s Committee on Appropriations, 28-21. The amendment can still be vetoed by the House floor, Senate or President Obama.