Oct 242013
 October 24, 2013

washington dc marijuana dicriminalizationThe Washington D.C. City Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety held a public hearing last night on legislation introduced earlier this year by Councilman Tommy Wells. There is another hearing scheduled for today. Media report after media report has shown overwhelming support for the legislation. According to NBC:

“With the majority of the D.C. Council supporting at least decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, it seems likely that the District’s marijuana laws will change next year…”

The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act that was introduced by Councilman Tommy Wells would make possession of up to an ounce by those 18 years of age or older a civil violation, punishable by a $100 fine. Under the current law, possession of any amount of marijuana in D.C. is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 fine.

This would be a welcomed change for not only Washington D.C. residents, but also American citizens nationwide. If Washington D.C. changes it’s marijuana laws, it’s another clear sign of changing times and sends a signal to states nationwide that it’s time to reform their marijuana laws as well. I felt the same way when Washington D.C. finally implemented it’s medical marijuana law.

Below is a written testimony that NORML submitted, which was very well written and makes outstanding points. How do readers feel about this? Do you live in the D.C. area? If so, how do you feel about it?

Written Testimony Regarding B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013, Before the DC City Council, Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety

By Erik Altieri, Communications Director
NORML | NORML Foundation
Washington, DC
October 24, 2013

NORML applauds the members of the City Council for holding this hearing regarding the decriminalization of personal use amounts of marijuana.

B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013 reduces minor marijuana possession penalties (those involving the possession of 1 ounce or less) from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $1000 fine, to a civil infraction punishable by a fine only. This common sense, fiscally responsible proposal will cut costs, improve public safety, and have a positive impact on the quality of life of thousands of adults in the District of Columbia.

This Measure Will Improve The Quality Of Life For DC Citizens

In 2011, about 4,300 District citizens were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana at the estimated cost of over 20 million dollars. These arrests disproportionately effect people of color, with African American residents being arrested at 8 times the rate of their white counterparts despite similar use rates. This statistic makes the District 2nd in the nation when it comes to racial disparities, falling just behind Iowa. While only accounting for 51.6% of the population, people of color account for more than 90% of all marijuana arrests. Passage of this measure would spare many of these citizens from criminal arrest, prosecution, and incarceration, as well as the emotional and financial hardships that follow — including the loss of certain jobs, students loans, federal and state subsidies, and child custody rights.

Most adult marijuana users act responsibly. They are not part of the crime problem and they should not be treated like serious criminals. This legislation would maintain monetary sanctions for marijuana possession violations, but would spare offenders from being saddled with lifelong criminal records. This change would continue to discourage marijuana abuse, while halting the practice of permanently criminalizing thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

B20-0409 Will Cut Costs And Improve Public Safety

Law enforcement resource allocation is a zero-sum gain. The time that a police officer spends arresting and processing minor marijuana offenders is time when he or she is not out on the streets protecting the public from more significant criminal activity. Passage of this bill would allow law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts to re-allocate their existing resources toward activities that will more effectively target serious criminal behavior and keep the public safe. In recent years, lawmakers in California (2010), Connecticut (2011) and Vermont (2013) have enacted similar legislation for these reasons. To date, these laws are working as lawmakers intended.

District Residents Strongly Support Decriminalization

Public opinion strongly favors such a reprioritization of law enforcement resources. Marijuana ‘decriminalization,’ as proposed under The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act, presently enjoys support from the majority of Americans. According to a DC poll conducted by Public Policy Polling earlier this year, 75 percent of D.C. residents support decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

Contrary to the concerns of some, the passage of this legislation would not negatively impact marijuana use patterns or attitudes. Passage of similar legislation in other states has not led to increased marijuana use or altered adolescents’ perceptions regarding the potential harms of drug use. In fact, the only United States government study ever commissioned to assess whether the enforcement of strict legal penalties positively impacts marijuana use found, “Overall, the preponderance of the evidence which we have gathered and examined points to the conclusion that decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people.”

Support Public Safety: Vote ‘Yes’ On The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act

The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act seeks to reduce government expenditures and promote public safety. These are goals that lawmakers should support. It makes no sense to continue to treat responsible adult cannabis consumers as criminals. While NORML encourages the Council to approve this measure, we hope that you will also continue to pursue further marijuana law reforms. Amending this legislation to include limited personal cultivation of several marijuana plants would allow consumers to have an alternative source instead of continuing to funnel money into the black market. Ultimately, we urge the Council to consider moving further, to a system that regulates marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, which would put marijuana commerce in the hands of regulated businesses and away from criminal elements. Thank you for your time and consideration of this measure.

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About Johnny Green

Johnny Green is a marijuana activist from Oregon. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Public Policy. Follow Johnny Green on Facebook and Twitter. Also, feel free to email any concerns.
  • wowFAD

    If there’s anyone in this nation who could benefit from passing around the peace pipe, it’s Congress.

    It’s difficult to engage in partisan bickering when you’re laughing incessantly. Maybe cannabis will be the solution for all the anger that’s been oozing into and out of politics for so many decades. I’ve never met a disagreeable cannabis user (at least not in person). Not ever.

    • Sarijuana

      I don’t want them to laugh incessantly, but rather calm down and focus. There’s a pot for that.

      • wowFAD

        Heh. So maybe not *incessant* laughter, but often and well enough to keep them level individuals.

        • painkills2

          Or enough laughter to make them, I dunno, human.

          • wowFAD

            Yet another medical application: removing sticks from sphincters.

          • painkills2

            Well, it’s a miracle drug, that’s for sure. But the ability to make an asshole into a human being? Possible (but not likely).

      • painkills2

        New slogan: PMS? There’s a bud for that. Husband driving you crazy? There’s a bud for that!

    • painkills2

      Disagreeable Cannabis User? Just read about some woman who stabbed her boyfriend because his dog ate her stash. (Didn’t say if she was high at the time.)
      The peace pipe PLUS… Funyuns, pizza, or puffy Cheetos. Members of congress with onion-flavored breath and orange-tinted fingers (hey, John Boehner, make Orange the New Black!), the oil from the cheese covering their mouths and dotting their expensive clothes. Pretty picture.

      • wowFAD

        Jeez! I just want them to loosen up a bit. I don’t want to give them type 2 diabetes.

        • painkills2

          You’re too nice!

          • wowFAD

            We both know that’s not true.

          • painkills2

            Don’t make me laugh before I’ve had a chance to partake of my medicine today. It hurts.

  • painkills2

    New Mexico decriminalized up to half a pound this year. (Of course, keeping it an offense that carries a fine still makes carrying cannabis a “criminal” offense.) Damn you feds!

  • jbauerisamoran

    Please go to S.A.M. Facebook page…post something intelligent. This is ignorance at its finest.https://www.facebook.com/learnaboutsam?ref=br_tf

  • mark1985