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Bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in DC advances

Individuals held on possession of marijuana in Washington, DC, typically face a fine up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. With a new bill gaining momentum that may no longer be the case.

The Washington Times states, "A D.C. Council committee on Wednesday gave its unanimous approval to legislation that decriminalizes possession of marijuana in the city” making it a civil offense punishable by a $25 fine." Distribution of marijuana is and will continue to be a criminal act punishable within the District.

Current penalties for a first offense of sale, distribution, intent to distribute or cultivation of less than 1/2 lb. are up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Any amount over 1/2 lb. amounts to a penalty of up to five years in jail and/of fines of up to $50,000. Acts committed within 1,000 feet of schools, libraries, and playgrounds face double penalties.

In contrast to the recent advancements in marijuana legalization in states such as Washington and Colorado, decriminalization in DC only removes the criminal aspect of possessing small amounts of marijuana. It does not legalize marijuana, nor does it regulate its cultivation or distribution. The new bill would not be applicable to possession arrests occurring on the National Mall or any other federal properties. Offenses committed within these vicinities will continue to warrant a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year behind bars.

If the full D.C. Council approves of the bill the law will then make its way to Congress. Members of the Council's public safety committee believe that if the decriminalization bill is approved the next step in the process will be working towards legalizing the procurement of marijuana within D.C. city limits.