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Decriminalization Measure In Washington D.C. Receives Signature Of Approval From Mayor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mayor Vincent Gray of Washington D.C. signed a decriminalization measure as of late Monday, which would make the nation’s capital added to the list of states making possession of cannabis a civil offense rather than a criminal offense. Although the mayor’s signature is a major victory for supporters of the measure, the law still needs to be approved by the U.S. Congress.

Mayor Vincent Gray Approves Cannabis Decriminalization Measure

mayor vincent grayAs of late Monday, Mayor Vincent Gray of Washington D.C. signed the legislation that was passed 10-1 by the D.C. Council on March 4 to eliminate the criminal penalties for small possessions of cannabis (one ounce or less) and instead treat possession as a civil offense with a small fine.

“The consumption of cannabis in the privacy of a home would also result in a $25 fine, but public consumption would result in a penalty of up to $500 and up to six-months of incarceration.”

The measure would set the lowest civil fine for the possession of cannabis to date in any of the 17 states that have decriminalized small amounts of cannabis, with the exception of Alaska, which allows less than four ounces only in the privacy of a home without penalties. However, outside of a resident’s home, D.C.’s civil fine would be lower than those in any state.

The initiative would make the possession of one ounce or less of cannabis punishable by just a $25 fine. The measure outlines that the consumption of cannabis in the privacy of a home would also result in a $25 fine, but public consumption would result in a penalty of up to $500 and up to six-months of incarceration.

Decriminalization Measure Aims to Address Injustice In D.C.

Back in a 2012 analysis that was published by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, the District of Columbia was number one with the highest percentage for arrests per capita in the nation in regards to cannabis possession. However, this Monday marked a possible outcome in the near future for the decriminalization of possession in the nation’s capital.

Currently, anyone caught in Washington D.C. with the possession of cannabis is entitled to being punished by up to six-months in jail along with a maximum $1000 fine. Cannabis remains to be classified as a criminal misdemeanor, but that could soon change with “Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013.”

“This bill is a tremendous stride to end the disproportionate sociological and economic impact of marijuana arrests on African Americans – arrest that pull families apart and keep our residents from jobs, higher education and housing opportunities.” – Tommy Wells

With severe problems involving the racial inequality of cannabis possession arrests in D.C., the measure aims to revamp unjust cannabis laws.

According to Tommy Wells (D), City Council member and lead sponsor of the bill, stated, “in D.C., there are more than 5,000 arrests per year for marijuana; 90 percent are African Americans.”

He goes on to say: “This bill is a tremendous stride to end the disproportionate sociological and economic impact of marijuana arrests on African Americans – arrest that pull families apart and keep our residents from jobs, higher education and housing opportunities.”

Decriminalization Measure Awaits Approval From Congress

Although the mayor approved the decriminalization measure Monday, it still needs to be transmitted by the D.C. Council to U.S. Congress to become officially a law in the nation’s capital.

Some believe the U.S. Congress may become a very tough hurtle for approval of the Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013. However, advocates and supporters of the measure feel that the injustice in D.C.’s current law will be discarded in favor of the measure.

“D.C. lawmakers heard loud and clear the public’s demand to end marijuana arrests and passed one of the strongest decriminalization laws in the whole country,” stated Grant Smith, policy manager of the Drug Policy Alliance. “We don’t expect members of Congress to object to saving taxpayer dollars and advancing racial justice here in the nation’s capital.”

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