Our nation’s capital is poised to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana as soon as January. Washington, D.C.’s city council is set to pass the bill shortly, and Mayor Vincent Gray has already stated that he will sign the bill into law. This means, of course, that next time congress drives the country to the brink of defaulting on our national debt, they can just say they were governing while stoned.
Apparently D.C.’s last major change to pot laws — approval of medical marijuana — took about 15 years to put into practice. In the past year, though, three medical marijuana dispensaries have popped up, serving the District’s 59 registered medical marijuana patients. (Seriously, D.C.? What is it with your low enrollment numbers?) District residents almost certainly won’t have to wait that long for the next changing of the tide on the now-nationally-approved issue.
The issue is, though, that the District’s politics are a bit unusual. Though the city governed by a city council, it’s technically congress that has the final say on whatever is going on in the district. This means that the city council can approve weed all they want, but if the cranks in congress disapprove, nothing will happen. But thanks to public opinion, Colorado, and Washington, the Washington Post reports that, “city leaders think Congress won’t be interested in fighting that battle.” Yay!
In D.C. — as everywhere else — there’s a huge racial disparity that’s apparent when looking at who gets locked up for drugs, which was part of the impetus for the new decriminalization law. Councilmember Marion Berry is a sponsor of the bill, and says he hopes it will help curb the difference. “We have hundreds of young black men, black boys, being locked up, for simple possession of a couple bags of marijuana,” he said. “We need to stop that kind of injustice from happening."
Of course, the bill isn’t likely to extend to “a couple of bags” of marijuana, since it will apply to amounts under an ounce. But it might lead to the kind of enforcement that’s being seen in Massachusetts: since it’s all decriminalized, cops tend to turn more of a blind eye to small amounts of pot.
Just watch out on the 20 percent of D.C. that’s federal land; the decriminalization bill won’t apply anywhere you’d most like to smoke. (We were already thinking the Lincoln Memorial.) “We don’t want people thinking you’re free to puff up on federal property,” said the director of the D.C. mayor’s office on policy and legislative affairs. “You’re not, and you will be arrested.”