City Desk

Nearly Half of the $25 Pot Fines Issued So Far Were Issued East of the Anacostia River

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In the first two weeks since marijuana was decriminalized in D.C., the Metropolitan Police Department cited 27 people for carrying less than an ounce of pot—with nearly half the citations issued in a police district that covers much of Southeast D.C., including Anacostia, Naylor Gardens, and Barry Farm.

Police also issued eight citations in an area that includes downtown, Chinatown, and several waterfront neighborhoods, but stats obtained from MPD make it clear that current laws against marijuana are still mostly being enforced in neighborhoods where residents are more likely to be black and poor than in other areas.

While possession of small amounts of pot now only carries a $25 fine, smoking or selling weed is still illegal. Police also arrested 26 people for marijuana-related crimes during this period. The highest number of arrests were made in the Sixth Police District, which is also east of the Anacostia River and includes neighborhoods in both Northeast and Southeast.

Police arrested 14 people for smoking marijuana, one person for possessing more than an ounce of marijuana, three people for possession with the intent to distribute, and eight people for distributing marijuana, according to police data. MPD spokesman Araz Alali warns that these figures are subject to change and it is possible that not all tickets or citations have been submitted to police headquarters yet.

Remember, if you were given one of the citations for possession under the new law, you can send it to Washington City Paper and we may pay your $25 fine.

The above chart shows a breakdown of marijuana arrests and citations between July 17 and July 30 by police district. A description and map of the police districts are below.

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  • First District: U.S. Capitol, White House, downtown business district, Federal Triangle, convention center, Chinatown
  • Second District: Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park, Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, Palisades, and Spring Valley
  • Third District: Adams Morgan, Shaw, Columbia Heights, Dupont Circle, Farragut North, Kalorama, Logan Circle, and Mt. Pleasant
  • Fourth District: Carter Baron, 16th Street Heights, Fort Totten, Lamond/Riggs, Shepherd Park, Takoma, and Petworth
  • Fifth District: Brookland, Ivy City, Trinidad, Woodridge, and the National Arboretum
  • Sixth District: Hillcrest, Penn Branch, and areas of Northeast east of the Anacostia River
  • Seventh District: Anacostia, Barry Farms, Naylor Gardens, and Washington Highlands

When Councilmember Tommy Wells pushed marijuana decriminalization through the D.C. Council, he argued that this was a civil rights issue, citing an ACLU study showing that black people accounted for 91 percent of all D.C. marijuana arrests, despite equal usage rates by white and black residents. It's hard to read too much into these statistics: They represent just a two-week sample size, and the race of those who received the citations isn't listed. But from just these two weeks, it's clear that a disproportionate number of arrests and citations are still being issued east of the Anacostia River, areas that are predominately African-American neighborhoods with high concentrations of public housing units.  

Soon these arrests numbers could decrease even further. In July, marijuana advocates submitted more than 57,000 signatures to the D.C. Board of Elections to have a measure legalizing marijuana in the District appear on November's ballot. If just half of these signatures are valid, voters will get to decide whether to legalize marijuana. The law would allow people 21 and over to possess as much as two ounces of marijuana for personal use and grow up to three plants at home. Selling the plant would still be illegal.

With additional reporting by Zach Rausnitz

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