Archive for the ‘D.C.’ category

D.C. Committee Votes To Seal Marijuana Possession Records

September 22nd, 2014

Last week, the D.C. Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety voted unanimously to support B20-467, legislation that would allow individuals to file a motion to seal records relating to offenses that were subsequently decriminalized or legalized. This would allow individuals who were arrested for simple possession of marijuana to have their records sealed. If Initiative 71 passes this November (and, with 65% support, it seems likely), this bill will allow even more individuals with nonviolent marijuana charges to have those sealed as well.

If you are a D.C. resident, please email your councilmember and urge him or her to support this bill. Enactment of B20-467 will help curtail the life-altering collateral consequences a marijuana arrest carries with it. Criminal records are often used to keep otherwise qualified candidates from obtaining employment or even housing. Please raise your voice so that District residents aren’t marked for life for having used a substance that most Americans believe should be legal.

 

D.C. Marijuana Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot

August 6th, 2014

The D.C. Board of Elections has officially certified Ballot Initiative 71 for November’s general election. If passed by a majority of D.C. voters, Initiative 71 will repeal all criminal and civil penalties for the personal possession and limited, private cultivation of marijuana. Passage of this initiative will be yet another step towards sensible marijuana policies in our nation’s capital, so make sure your voter registration is current if you are a D.C. resident so you can vote “yes” on November 4.

Initiative 71 will allow adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants — with no more than three being mature — in their private residences. Adults will also be allowed to give away up to an ounce of marijuana, but any sales would still be criminal. The initiative would also remove penalties for using and selling marijuana paraphernalia.

D.C. law forbids imposing a tax via the ballot initiative process, so Initiative 71 does not set up a Colorado like system of taxing and regulating the production and adult retail sales of marijuana. MPP will continue to work with D.C. Council, the mayor’s office, and our allies to see to it that marijuana is treated like alcohol.

Adults should be allowed to use and consume marijuana – which is safer than alcohol – free from penalty, and responsible businesses and the community at large — not criminals — should benefit from the sale and distribution.

D.C. Mayor Signs Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Program

August 5th, 2014

On July 29, D.C. Mayor Vince Gray signed the Medical Marijuana Expansion Emergency Amendment Act of 2014. The ordinance takes effect immediately, but it is only temporary, so another measure and Congressional approval are needed to make the compassionate changes permanent.

This temporary law allows physicians to recommend marijuana for any debilitating condition they think would respond favorably to the therapeutic use of marijuana and increases the number of plants D.C.’s licensed cultivators may possess from 95 to 500. This new law will automatically expire on October 27 unless the Council makes passes new legislation.

D.C. physicians participating in the medical marijuana program may now recommend medical marijuana to those suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, and a host of other conditions that were not previously included on a list of qualifying conditions, but whose symptoms have been shown to relent with marijuana use. Increasing the number of plants that cultivators may possess ensures that our seriously ill friends and neighbors have access to the medicine their physicians think will work best for them.

Enactment of temporary legislation gave the Council the time it needs to debate and pass a permanent fix. If you are a District resident, please ask your councilmember to continue to support compassionate legislation and then send this to our fellow Washingtonians who support medical marijuana.

Marijuana Decriminalization Takes Effect In Nation’s Capital

July 17th, 2014
As of midnight Wednesday, D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law is officially in effect. The new law — approved by the D.C. Council, signed by Mayor Gray,

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Mayor Vincent Gray

and submitted to Congress for a 60-day review — replaces misdemeanor criminal charges for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil violation, costing the offender $25. Now D.C. has the third-least punitive marijuana laws in the country, behind Colorado and Washington State.

It is important to note that this is only a change in District law, not federal law. Marijuana possession on federal lands, including the National Mall, is still a criminal offense and violators may be arrested and prosecuted. Public use is still illegal as well. Please see our summary of this new law for more information.

Thank you so much to all the individuals and organizations that took part in reforming the previously outdated law. Further reform is still needed, however. If you are a District resident, please contact your council members and urge them to treat marijuana like alcohol.

 

District Of Columbia’s Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance Goes Into Effect Tonight

July 16th, 2014

A new District ordinance reducing marijuana possession penalties to a $25.00 fine-only violation goes into effect at midnight tonight.

Washington, DC City Council members overwhelmingly approved the legislation, entitled “The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act,” this past spring. The measure amends District law involving the possession or transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a civil violation (punishable by a $25.00 fine, no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record).

Offenses involving the public consumption of cannabis remain classified as a criminal misdemeanor under DC law, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $500 fine. The possession of cannabis-related paraphernalia will be re-classified as a violation, not a criminal offense.

An analysis published by the American Civil Liberties Union reported that the District possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.

Weeks ago, Congressman Andrew Harris (R-MD) introduced a language to undermine the implementation of this act. However, that provision remains pending and is strongly opposed by the White House.

The District’s $25.00 fine-only measure is similar to existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.

Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense.

Three states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The White House Opposes Congressional Attempts to Hinder DC Marijuana Reform

July 14th, 2014

In a Statement of Administration Policy, released today, President Obama’s administration took a firm stance against recent efforts by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) to restrict the District of Columbia from using any of its funds towards reducing the penalties for, or legalizing, marijuana for recreational use.

The memo states that “the Administration strongly opposes the language in the bill preventing the District from using its own local funds to carry out locally- passed marijuana policies, which again undermines the principles of States rights and of District home rule. Furthermore, the language poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Department’s enforcement of all marijuana laws currently in force in the District.”

“It is encouraging to see the White House stand up for DC’s right to pursue the reformation of their marijuana laws,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Prohibition is a failed policy and we are pleased to see President Barack Obama beginning to act in accordance with the view of an overwhelming majority of Americans that states and localities should be free to pursue new approaches to marijuana, free from federal incursion.”

You can read the full text of the memo here.

You can click here to quickly and easily contact your elected officials and encourage them to oppose this amendment.

Washington, DC: Marijuana Initiative Backers Turn In 57,000 Signatures For Proposed 2014 District Ballot Measure

July 8th, 2014

Proponents of a District initiative to permit the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana by those age 21 or older have turned in 57,000 signatures to the DC Board of Elections. The total is more the twice the number of signatures from registered voters necessary to place the measure on the 2014 electoral ballot.

District of Columbia election officials will meet in mid-August to certify the measure for the ballot.

The proposed ballot initiative (Initiative Measure 71) seeks to remove all criminal and civil penalties in regard to the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants (no more than three mature).

Nearly two out of three District residents favor legalizing the possession and use of marijuana by adults, according to a January 2014 Washington Post poll.

Even if approved by District voters this fall, members of the DC City Council still possess the authority to amend the measure. Members of Congress could also potentially halt the law’s implementation. Federal lawmakers possess oversight regarding the implementation of all District laws.

This spring, DC city council members approved legislation reducing minor marijuana possession offenses to a $25 civil fine. That ordinance is scheduled to take effect later this month. However, federal legislation seeking to undermine this measure is presently pending in the US House of Representatives.

DC Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Signed

March 31st, 2014

This afternoon, “The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013” was signed by the mayor after being approved by the city council in a 10 to 1 vote. This measure amends the punishment for the possession or transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a civil violation (punishable by a $25 fine, no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record).

“DC has the most egregious racially disparate marijuana arrests of any city in the country,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “This measure is a great first step in ending the devastation marijuana arrests have on the city’s communities and will allow law enforcement to better allocate their resources towards more dire crimes.”

NORML commends Councilman Tommy Wells on championing the measure through the city council.

“This is a victory for the District and a victory for justice. 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,” Councilman Tommy Wells said about the bill signing.

Due to federal oversight of the District, this measure will not officially become law until it is received by the US Congress and undergoes a period of review. This review period is likely to extend into late summer, we will update you when it has been finalized. If Congress choses not to act to overturn the measure, it becomes DC law.

NORML PAC Endorses Tommy Wells for Mayor of DC

March 14th, 2014

NORML-Endorse-SuareThis morning, NORML PAC announced its endorsement of Councilman Tommy Wells for mayor of Washington, DC.

“Councilman Wells is a passionate crusader for the cause of marijuana law reform,” stated NORML PAC manager Erik Altieri, “Wells showed his skill and acumen for the issue when he championed the District’s marijuana decriminalization measure, which was overwhelmingly approved by the DC City Council just this month. The District of Columbia would greatly benefit from having his compassion, knowledge, and strong leadership in the mayor’s office. Under a Tommy Wells administration, DC will continue to roll back its failed prohibition on marijuana and move towards a system of legalization and regulation.”

“Decriminalization is the first step in ending the failed War on Drugs that has unfairly affected our minority communities and ruined countless lives,” stated Councilman Wells, “We still have much to do to bring about common sense changes – like legalization – so that DC can set an example for the rest of the country.”

A large majority of Washington, DC residents agree with Wells’ position. A poll of District residents released by the Washington Post in January revealed that 63% were in favor of legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, only 34% were opposed. Legalization had majority support amongst every single demographic surveyed.

The District of Columbia currently leads the rest of the country in marijuana arrests per capita, with 854 individuals arrested for every 100,000 residents. These arrests are also disproportionately impacting people of color. While only accounting for about 51% of the population, African Americans constitute 90% of all marijuana possession arrests. This is despite the fact that African Americans and whites use marijuana at similar rates. Councilman Wells’ recently approved marijuana decriminalization measure will be a great first step in rolling back this social injustice.

The Democratic primary for the DC mayor’s race will be held on April 1st. DC voters can get more information on how and where to vote in the primary on the District of Columbia’s website here.

You can learn more about Tommy Well’s campaign on his website or Facebook page.

D.C. Decriminalizes Marijuana

March 4th, 2014

Moments ago, the Washington, D.C. City Council voted to decriminalize marijuana possession!alert_sidebar_dc_decrim

The measure removes criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for individuals 18 years of age and older and replaces them with a civil fine of $25, similar to a parking ticket. It also removes penalties for possession of paraphernalia in conjunction with small amounts of marijuana, and it specifies that individuals cannot be searched or detained based solely on an officer’s suspicion of marijuana possession. Public use of marijuana would remain a criminal offense punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

The bill goes into effect this summer.

This means that, outside of Washington and Colorado, marijuana penalties are now less punitive in our nation’s capital than anywhere else in the country.

Washington, D.C. has the nation’s highest arrest rate for marijuana possession, according to a report released in June by the American Civil Liberties Union. Blacks accounted for 91% of marijuana possession arrests in the District, and they were eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite using marijuana at similar rates. The ACLU’s analysis concluded that enforcing marijuana possession laws, which make up nearly half of all drug offenses, costs the District more than $26.5 million per year. Hopefully, this new bill will have an immediate impact on this injustice.