City Desk

The Consequences of Smoking Pot in D.C. Depend on Where You’re Standing

Unless Congress objects, in July the Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014 will take effect in D.C. But to say that pot will be decriminalized in the District would be an oversimplification. While possession will be reduced to a $25 civil fine, you still won’t be able to walk around with a lit joint. And what happens when you stroll, fatty in hand, onto one of D.C.’s 23 national parks, even if you don’t plan to smoke there? Step onto federal land, and things become very different.


Under the new law, the smell of marijuana would no longer be probable cause for the Metropolitan Police Department to stop you. But walking around smoking pot or holding a lit joint or pipe would be a misdemeanor crime akin to drinking in public, earning you up to 60 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. “The big change is simply having it on you, or possessing it, is reduced to a civil fine,” says criminal defense attorney (and former D.C. Council candidate, running on a decriminalization platform) Paul Zukerberg, who estimates that 80 percent of his clients are charged with possession, not other marijuana-related crimes like intent to distribute. Having a prior record or more than an ounce of pot will still trigger larger fines and longer sentences, but the bill is intended to reduce arrests—an ACLU study last year showed that 91 percent of the people arrested in D.C. on marijuana charges are black, despite equal usage rates by white and black people nationally.


Walk around the corner, and yikes. Even drum circle–friendly Malcolm X Park is administered by the National Park Service. In the two states that have legalized weed, Colorado and Washington, the Park Service has made clear that on its land, federal law comes first; at a recent congressional hearing, the acting chief of the U.S. Park Police said his agency would do the same in its parks in D.C. Thus far, they’ve been pretty aggressive: Since 2009, more than 27,000 people have been cited for smoking on U.S. property, a federal misdemeanor that can net up to six months in federal prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. The next time you’re strolling around the monuments and want to light up, maybe wait a few hundred feet: Your punishment may be many times greater if you’re caught on the feds’ land.

Josh Kramer is the editor of the Cartoon Picayune.

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  • Shireen Parsons

    Obviously, the Feds learned nothing from the long-ago debacle known as Prohibition. Sigh....

  • BossIlluminati

    the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

    1000s of my friends and family have grown 30-99 plants for 20 years, thanks for keeping prices high and NORCAL wealthy...#1 crop in cali = $15 Billion Untaxed...

    "any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death" - cali secret 420

    from 0 states to half the country (now the majority), from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

    20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary....nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states and more blacks are in prison then were slaves before the civil war...even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol...not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…

    Deaths by Alcohol: Millions
Deaths by Tobacco: Millions

    Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade
Deaths by Guns: Millions
Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions
Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever...they are killing my American family while denying freedom

    love and freedom forever


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