News / USA

    Washington, DC Moves Toward Marijuana Decriminalization

    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

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora