The City You’d Least Expect Has Just Decriminalized Marijuana


Lo and behold: Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States and the center of federal government, has decriminalized the possession and consumption of small amounts of marijuana.

By a near-unanimous vote, the D.C. city council has decided to eliminate laws that made possession of up to an ounce of marijuana a criminal offense punishable by a fine of $1,000 or a six-month prison sentence. When the new regulations go into effect this summer, possession will be punishable only by a fine of $25; public consumption will remain a misdemeanor, but with a maximum fine of $500 or 60 days in jail. D.C. joins the 17 states that have decriminalization laws on the books, and has become one of the most lenient cities in the country when it comes to marijuana offenses.

“This means that, outside of Washington and Colorado, marijuana penalties are now less punitive in our nation’s capital than anywhere else in the country!” Marijuana Policy Project federal projects director Dan Rifle wrote in an open-letter.

Council member Tommy Wells, chief sponsor of the legislation, says that “This is a major step since we are the nation’s capital, and I am proud of that.”

Image Credit: Washington Post

And it’s particularly important because the capital was, until now, one of the worst theaters in the pointless war on drugs. D.C. police made 846 marijuana possession arrests per 100,000 residents in 2010; that number was 256 per 100,000 nationally. And even more disturbingly, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says that blacks nationally were 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites despite similar rates of use. In D.C., that rate increased to 8.05 times more likely.

This change will affect all Millennials by setting a precedent that marijuana reform can occur on the Eastern seaboard, a region that has previously struggled to build momentum around changing drug laws. It could even keep you out of jail. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 20-30% of 18 to 29-year-olds reported having used marijuana in the past year in 2011, and 57% said they’d used it at least once in their life.

  • Jeff

    This is the exact city I would expect to legalize or decriminalize marijuana and every other drug, this is where the criminals live and pass laws for the rest of to us to follow, but not for themselves. Come on “We Are Change” get with it!

  • liber tarian

    Very nice

  • Anonyzor

    Why even be fined? That makes no sense. :T

    • Phanes Erichthoneus

      Oh, exactly. All they’re going to fine people is $25, and even then, you have to be caught with it for them to collect that fine. While I’m against heavy taxation (or any taxation, really) of marijuana under a legal scheme, if they just put enough of a small tax on legal marijuana, they could make a lot more money than just fining people when they happen to run across someone who has it!

  • kritikosman

    Somewhere in the future–hopefully the near; the use of this herb will have no criminal ramifications–No Where!

  • 88Inator

    Just do away with punitive rules. Treat it like alcohol already…

  • Lesia Stevens

    It still has to be approved by the congress – not final yet. But, every time something like this happens I have greater and greater faith that legalization will happen nationwide in my lifetime.

  • YoMamma

    Whats with the segregation of white votes and black votes? Crazy Americans!!

  • lulu1013

    This is awesome news keep it coming we can only hope that it becomes recreational as in Colorado and Washington this plant does ALOT of good if only it wasn’t labeled all these years as bad! I have alot of information on it and I was amazed this is another start to something that could be alot of good to people who rely on medication daily!

  • Phanes Erichthoneus

    Well, if it’s okay for DC, why isn’t it okay for the rest of the country? I’m becoming very jealous here… people in this country’s own stinkin’ capital can be much more at ease consuming marijuana, knowing there’s only a $25 fine. But around here? There’s still a good possibility of arrest and jail time.

    This decriminalization is good news, but it certainly has had ZERO effect on where I live.

  • Michael J. Kaer

    Those graphs tell the story. Kids start using cannabis early and many continue for the rest of their lives. We know cannabis is good for you EVEN WHEN SMOKED (stop the lies!) and NO ONE HAS DIED OF IT (except for that case of the guy that got crushed by cannabis)( and that one bulshit case in the UK.). There is a drop off of use when people are of parenting age then it goes back up and in the future the seniors will have a boost in their numbers as more seniors find out just how good and fast the pain relief is.

    • Lisa Farkass


  • TBK Revolution

    End the war on nature! No adult should be punished by the State for possessing the plant nor should they be punished for consuming it in a controlled environment such as their home or a bar setting that allows it.

  • Pam

    Salt Lake City is the last city I expect.

    • David Allan Simpson

      I thought this would be salt lake city as well when I clicked on it lol

  • Steve Christensen

    Didn’t the rest of America catch Geraldo interview our troops in Afghanistan about how they are allowing the poppies(heroin) to be grown? Which btw the talaban had banned. That kind of makes this not a war on drugs but more a war on the people… I understand it’s job security for the cops so I don’t even hold it against them, but sooner or later aren’t they gonna realize this is the same country their kids live in?

    • A

      Why do you think we’re there in the first place. The US government makes money on the heroin that’s imported from Afghanistan.

    • Lisa Farkass

      Gee you have to wonder why Portland, Oregon is seeing such a substantive increase in HEROIN use these past ten years….. I am sure it has NOTHING to do with anything…. :( I am telling you….crimes against humanity…..wake up…wake up….

  • bailey78

    I can’t wait for Texas to get with the program.

  • johnny Utah

    Utah will only legalize pot once forced to by the federal government

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