District of Columbia city council votes to decriminalize pot

In Washington D.C, you can now smoke 'em if you've got 'em. Credit: istockphoto
In Washington D.C, you can now smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em. Credit: istockphoto

The District of Columbia’s city council voted on Tuesday to make smoking marijuana in the U.S. capital a violation comparable to a parking ticket.

The bill passed 11-1 in the first of two council votes. The council has a chance to alter the bill before a second vote, which will not come before February 18. To become law, it must also be approved by Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray, who has voiced support for the measure.

Supporters have portrayed decriminalization as an issue of justice since far more black people are arrested for pot possession in Washington than people of other races, according to a study of the issue.

“This bill is designed to change drug laws that do not work, but also to change the disproportionate impact” on a group of city residents, Councilmember Tommy Wells, who introduced the bill, said during the one-hour debate.

Final approval means Washington would join 15 U.S. states and a handful of cities that have removed the threat of arrest for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The law could face scrutiny from Congress, which has constitutional oversight over the capital.

But Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a U.S. advocacy group, said there has been no sign the House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee would oppose the measure. A committee spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The bill proposes a $25 fine for possession of less than an ounce (28 grams) of pot, less than most city parking tickets.

In an amendment, the council weakened the bill by making smoking marijuana in public a misdemeanor on par with carrying an open container of alcohol. The original fine had been $100.

An amendment was also passed that would make the odor of marijuana reasonable cause to perform a search of a vehicle.

Possession of marijuana in Washington is now a misdemeanor carrying up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, except for the handful of patients who use medical marijuana.

A study by the American Civil Liberties Union has shown that eight times more black people are arrested for pot possession in the U.S. capital than people of other races.

Dan Riffle, head of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, applauded the council’s vote but criticized the amendments.

The changes “will simply expand stop-and-frisk policies in the District and will do nothing to fight the horrible racial disparities in marijuana enforcement,” he said in a statement.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana use. Colorado and Washington state have legalized recreational use.

A Washington Post poll last month showed that 63 percent of city residents favored legalizing marijuana, up from almost half in 2010. Activists in the heavily Democratic city are seeking to put an initiative on the November ballot that would legalize possession of up to two ounces (56 grams) of marijuana and three mature pot plants for personal use.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Man dies trapped in elevator shaft at Bronx…

A man in his twenties died after being trapped in an elevator shaft of a Bronx building early Monday, police said.

International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

National

New York Times calls for legalization of pot

The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea.

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Career

Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…