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DC: Mayor Signs Legislation Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession Offenses

Mayor Vincent Gray has signed legislation reducing the District’s marijuana possession penalties to a fine-only violation. This measure is presently under review by Congress. If members of Congress do not take steps to override this legislation, it is anticipated to become DC law by early July.

“The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013,” amends District law involving 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). 

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.

The District 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.

A 2012 analysis published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland reported that the District possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.


 







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