News / USA

Washington, DC Moves Toward Marijuana Decriminalization

Washington, D.C. Moves Toward Marijuana Decriminalizationi
X
February 10, 2014 6:28 PM
After Colorado and Washington State legalized marijuana for recreational use, other states and cities around the country began taking a fresh look at their own marijuana laws. Some are bowing to political pressure to fully legalize marijuana, which recent polls indicate a majority of Americans support. Others, like Washington, D.C., are leaning more toward only decriminalizing the drug. If it does, the city would join 17 states with similar laws. VOA's Jeff Swicord reports.
Jeff Swicord
After Colorado and Washington State legalized marijuana for recreational use, other states and cities around the country began taking a fresh look at their own marijuana laws. Some are bowing to political pressure to fully legalize marijuana, which recent polls indicate a majority of Americans support.

Others, like Washington, D.C., are leaning more toward only decriminalizing the drug. If it does, the city would join 17 states with similar laws.

The Washington, D.C. city council is moving forward with a bill to decriminalize marijuana. The bill would change the penalty for possession from a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail, to a simple $25 fine. But it would leave criminal penalties for smoking in public.

Councilmember David Grosso, a supporter of the bill, said, “Putting people in jail is no longer the solution to this problem. I think the war on drugs has really failed. And what we need to do is to find a way to heal our communities from that and to make sure that people are no longer being thrown in jail for non-violent offenses.”

Lone dissenter

Councilmember Yvette Alexander was the lone dissenter in a preliminary vote. She is concerned the bill would make Washington a top drug market.

“It will increase more attraction to this area for the sale of drugs. Because the purchase of drugs has little to no repercussion,” she said.

Supporters argue decriminalization will cut law enforcement costs and address racial disparities recently outlined in a report by the American Civil Liberties Union, which advocates for American civil rights.  

The report found people of color are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Washington, even though usage rates are often higher in certain white communities.

Washington attorney Paul Zuckerberg has represented marijuana defendants for 28 years.

“We are arresting 6,000 people a year for simple marijuana possession," he said. "D.C. leads the nation in marijuana arrests per capita. And we also lead the nation in racially-biased arrests.”

Drug policy reform

Decriminalization advocates say racial disparities in arrests are a nationwide problem and threaten a generation of black Americans with the stigma of criminal records.  

“Besides the arrests there is the fact that they have the scarlet letter [permanent stigma]," said Bill Piper, who is with the Drug Policy Alliance which calls for drug policy reform.  "And it is with them for the rest of their lives, which makes it hard for them to get jobs, makes it hard for them to get housing.”

City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson voted for the decriminalization bill, but he thinks the racial disparities argument is the wrong reason to change the law.

“I think that is a false argument. To be sure, if there are discriminatory practices in policing, we should vigorously investigate and put an end to that," he said. "But that is not the basis of whether something should be a crime or not. And, in fact, most members of the council don’t support criminalizing drug use.”

The bill faces another city council vote before it goes before Mayor Vincent Gray.  Then, it must be approved by the U.S. Congress which oversees laws in Washington, D.C.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: BossIlluminati
February 11, 2014 10:07 AM
the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING!!!13

from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, and 2016 elections

20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary....nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody...even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice...no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol...

love and freedom forever

AMERICA'S WAR ON DRUGS IS A WAR ON AMERICANS!!!33

In Response

by: mjissafer
February 27, 2014 10:26 AM
Anon, please note that all D.C. Council Members are Democrats, as well as the mayor. That is why there is only one dissenting voice.

In Response

by: Anon
February 12, 2014 2:44 PM
Mr. Illuminati,

Please note that "lone dissenter" of the bill, Yvette Alexander, is a Democrat.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid