Washington D.C. on the Verge of Ending Marijuana Possession Arrests

Right now, a conviction for marijuana possession in Washington, D.C. can lead to six months in jail and a $1000 fine. But soon, the penalty may be as little as a $25 ticket.

That’s because today, the Council of the District of Columbia made a giant step toward decriminalizing marijuana when a panel of five out of thirteen Councilmembers voted unanimously to replace criminal penalties for possession with civil fines comparable to receiving a parking ticket (as well as forfeiture of the marijuana and paraphernalia). With today’s vote, the District of Columbia is poised to join 17 states that have already decriminalized marijuana. It’s a symbolically significant move as well: people from all over the world visit D.C. to see our monuments, learn about our country’s history, and observe democracy in action; it’s very important to know that, once this legislation is passed, people will no longer be subject to arrest and a criminal record for possession of a small amount of marijuana in the shadow of the Capitol building.

Today’s vote is a huge win for racial justice, coming on the heels of groundbreaking studies released by the ACLU and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights and Urban Affairs that document the tremendous racial disparities in marijuana arrests in Washington, D.C. Black D.C. residents are eight times more likely to be arrested for possession than white residents (even though we know blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates). With the tremendous collateral consequences that stem from a marijuana arrest – including barriers to housing and employment – decriminalization is a critical first step toward bringing D.C. law in line with common sense and justice.

– Read the entire article AlterNet.