The Practical Guide to D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization
Ward 6 councilmember Tommy Wells' bill decriminalizing possession of marijuana possession passed the D.C. Council this afternoon on a 10-1-1 vote. Next it's headed to Mayor Vince Gray, who's expected to sign it.
On the macro level, Wells says this should reduce the damage of racially disparate enforcement of the city's marijuana laws. On the micro level, though, getting stoned is now a little more complicated. Read on:
So marijuana is legal now?
Nope. While the criminal penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana has been replaced with a fine, the bill doesn't bring Colorado-style legalization to the District. (But stay tuned!)
How much can I posses and only risk a fine?
Under the legislation, anyone carrying an ounce or less of marijuana will receive the $25 penalty.
Will they take my dimebag?
Whether or not it's less than an ounce, police will take your marijuana if it's "visible," according to the bill.
What about my vaporizer?
If it's "visible," that's gone, too.
Can I finally smoke at the Meridian Hill drum circle?
Nope. While the original version of the bill would have made public blazing subject to a $100 fine, an amendment pushed by Council chairman Phil Mendelson kept public smoking as a criminal offense. According to the bill, anyone smoking on a street, alley, park, sidewalk, or park, or anyone in a vehicle on those places, risks arrest. Also off limits: "any place to which the public is invited." In the final bill, the maximum penalties for smoking marijuana in public are a $500 fine and a 60-day jail term.
Where can I smoke without being arrested?
Since the bill forbids smoking in public, pot smokers are limited to their own property or property to which they're invited.
Does this apply on federal land, too?
It's unlikely. While the federal government has remained quiet on the bill, a Park Police spokeswoman tells the Post that the agency likely won't follow the District's bill.
What about my dealer?
Unluckily for the people actually distributing marijuana, selling the drug is still a crime in the District. That could change, though, if activists manage to put an initiative legalizing marijuana on the ballot in November.
When does the decriminalization bill go into effect?
First, Gray has to sign the bill. After that, because the bill affects criminal sentencing, it will have 60 days of congressional review, according to Wells spokesman Jack Pfeiffer. Once those 60 days are up, the bill will go into effect immediately.
Marijuana photo by Shutterstock