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Decriminalization, the day after

Marijuana legislation is set to change in the District
Marijuana legislation is set to change in the District

A day after the D.C. City Council voted to moved forward with changing marijuana possession guidelines inside the Beltway, area residents are speaking out.

Ashley Givens, a Shaw neighborhood resident is all for the change.

"We need a change in the system because far too many people are being arrested for extremely small amounts of marijuana," she said.

Robert Murrow, a returning citizen who lives in Mt. Pleasant, also agrees with the council's vote.

"A long time ago, my very first arrest ever was over a traffic stop where there were roaches in the car's ash-tray," he recalled. "I was in the backseat passed out and when I woke up and saw the officer standing beside the car me and my buddies were in, I didn't think I had done anything wrong because I wasn't driving.

"We were all asked to exit and the car and the officer ended up searching it where he found the roaches and since the three of us wouldn't cop to the weed, we all got arrested...and twenty years later, that shows up on my arrest report."

Murrow went on to say that he was fined $300.00 and six months probation. He later violated that probation, after two months; with a public intoxication charge. He ad to complete the rest of his probation behind bars, and once that was over he admits that he was eventually re-arrested over numerous minor offenses.

"I felt like I couldn't catch a break," he said. "I did all the required things of my probation, and even my every day things, like looking for work; but I had a hard time getting ahead because I had to talk about my arrest, probation, and conviction."

Now Murrow says that he been in and out of the judicial system his entire adult life. "I was 18 when I was arrested and I had to of been arrested about a dozen times for small stuff. At least I've never been hit with being a habitual offender," he jokes. He works for two different temp companies, and his wife works a receptionist for a doctor in private practice.

Murrow's story isn't unique. It's stories like his that has prompted many on the city council to push for a change in the law.

On Tuesday, with a vote of 10-1, smoking marijuana inside a home or possessing less than once ounce will no longer result in an arrest and an almost assured jail stint. Instead, residents can expect a civil fine of $25.

It's important to note that it is still illegal to smoke marijuana in public, and if caught with marijuana on federal property the D.C. no longer applies.

The approved bill is expected to be signed by the mayor.

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