Washington D.C. Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession, Heads To Feds For Approval

On Monday, District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana possession. This is a big deal, as Washington D.C. arrests more people for marijuana possession per capita than anywhere else in the country. In D.C., getting caught with weed used to carry six months in prison and a $1,000 fine; under the new law, it’ll carry no prison time and a mere $25 fine. That’s less than most city parking tickets (and, in many cases, less than the cost of the weed itself).

But the change isn’t official yet, as the federal government has a chance to veto the bill before it becomes law. This is standard procedure in the District of Columbia: Bills signed by the mayor are sent to the U.S. Congress, which has 30 days (or 60 in the case of criminal laws) to veto the legislation. If the President signs off on the veto, the law is dead.

In all likelihood, though, President Obama will let the law stand. He’s often lamented the disproportionate effect drug laws have on black youth, and that’s most certainly a problem in D.C., where black residents are eight times more likely to be arrested for weed possession than their white counterparts. If and when the bill becomes law, Washington D.C. will join 17 other states that have already decriminalized marijuana.