D.C. Council Considers Legalization

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Weed is on a roll in Washington, D.C.

Less than two months after the first medical marijuana dispensaries started serving patients in the nation’s capital, the District City Council is considering full legalization. Council Member David Grosso, an independent, introduced an ordinance Sept. 17 that would make possession and use of pot legal for all adults over the age of 21.

Future and Current Marijuana Laws

The proposal would allow recreational marijuana stores under license by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration and would tax recreational pot at 10 percent and medical pot at 6 percent.

Currently, possession of small amounts of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. People are arrested for marijuana crimes at a greater rate in Washington than anywhere else in the United States.

And the racial disparities in those arrests are also most glaring in Washington. Blacks are more than eight times more likely than whites to be busted for marijuana possession, despite the fact that similar percentages of both races use weed.

“Most people understand the role that marijuana has played in our community,” Grosso told U.S. News & World Report. “Unlike what was touted for years during the ‘war on drugs,’ that it’s a gateway drug, really all marijuana’s been is a gateway to arrest and a lifetime of struggling with the justice system.”

Most people understand the role that marijuana has played in our community…Council Member David Grosso

Pot is still illegal at the federal level, but the Justice Department announced on Aug. 29 that it wouldn’t interfere with states that legalize, as long as they enforce regulations that meet certain federal priorities, including keeping weed away from kids, preventing cartel and gang involvement, and eliminating violence. Grosso said he thinks his proposal would comply with the terms of this new policy.

Adam Eidinger’s Marijuana Proposal

But his plan isn’t the only one in the city. Early in September, Adam Eidinger, a longtime city activist, withdrew his petition to put a a decriminalization initiative on the 2014 ballot. Eidinger said he would address concerns with the language of his proposal that were raised by the city and would reintroduce it in a form that may look more like legalization.

Eidinger’s proposal would have made possession of up to two ounces of pot or three plants grown at home a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine. In July, Council Member Tommy Wells, a Democrat and a candidate for Mayor, introduced a separate plan to decriminalize by lowering penalties for possession of up to an ounce to a $100 fine.

“Rest assured that folks are going to be pushing for my bill at any hearing on Wells’ bill,” Grosso said. “I think what will happen is Councilman Wells will have a hearing on decriminalization, and people will show up and say, ‘Hey, this doesn’t go far enough!’ and then I think it would be smart for them to move forward with my bill.”

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