Weed? Legal in the District of Columbia? Not Quite, But Decriminalization Begins in D.C.
As of the morning of July 17th, 2014, a new marijuana decriminalization law passed by local Washington D.C. politicians has officially taken effect. Starting today, police in the District now have new rules on how to handle marijuana related crime. Where possession of the Schedule I narcotic once meant possible handcuffs and finger printing, cops can now confiscate the drug and write a $25 ticket for holding under one ounce of pot.
D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department has the new rules laid out on their website, and the laxer regulations are a welcome sight for the nearly fifty percent of Americans who believe the government should keep its hands off their bongs. In addition, drug paraphernalia, such as cigars, rolling papers, or the aforementioned water pipes, are now legal to possess with less than one ounce of marijuana. Gifts of marijuana, with no payment or exchange of goods or services in return, are now legal up to that one ounce limit. The most important feature of this new law, however, is that police can no longer take action upon simply smelling the odor of weed.
These new regulations come hot on the heels of the argument sweeping the country claiming marijuana laws unfairly target minorities when enforced. For example, a report from the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs found that 9 out of 10 people arrested for simple drug possession in the District were black, whereas African Americans make up only 47% of the overall population. This report and others similar to it began the discussion that lead to this new policy.
For Washington D.C. tokers, it isn’t all sunshine. In the district, it is still a criminal violation to sell weed. Anyone found operating a vehicle or a boat under the influence can still be taken in and processed by the Metro P.D. Most importantly, smoking or eating marijuana in the open, including a parked car, can still be sentenced up to 60 days in jail or a fine of up to $500.
There is one more thing to remember: Marijuana is still not federally legal, and Washington D.C. has plenty of federal land. Any federal law enforcement officer, such as U.S. Park Police, can still enforce the law as it is written federally. We all know that could be quite the potential headache, so be smart if you wish to partake. Remember, decriminalization is not legalization!