Washington, D.C. Pushes to Decriminalize Pot With New Bill
On Monday, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill which will decriminalize possessing less than an ounce of marijuana. If caught with such possession, you will only be fined $25 and it will be considered a civil offense.
Although smoking pot will still be a crime, the punishment for doing so will now be less severe. The maximum punishment for smoking marijuana will be reduced from six months in jail and a $1000 fine to just 60 days in jail with a $500 fine.
Patrice Sutton of the Washington, D.C. branch of the NAACP says the bill is a step towards the city acknowledging how some drug laws can be harmful when "they are enforced disproportionately against people of color."
In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union reported that for African Americans, the arrest rate for possessing marijuana was 846 per 100,000. But for white people, the rate was only 185 arrests per 100,000 people.
The next stop of the bill is Congress, where it will go through a 60 day review period. In the event that Members stop the legislation's approval, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is prepared to fight it, saying, "if Members try to interfere, however, I will stoutly defend D.C.'s right to pass such legislation, just as 17 states have already done."