WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — A bill introduced Wednesday by D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in the nation’s capital.
The bill would make possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine.
The measure was prompted in part by an American Civil Liberties Union report that found the District of Columbia leads the nation in per capita arrests for marijuana possession.
Councilmember David Grosso, one of nine co-sponsors of the bill, strongly supports decriminalization in the District for a multitude of reasons.
“It’s time for us to recognize that marijuana does not do harm,” said Grosso. “It’s not a gateway drug like people think it is. It’s not causing massive accidents or causing people to go crazy on the streets. And it’s just leading a lot of kids right to jail. Until they’re able to purchase this in a regular store and not have any consequences, that’s what it’s going to continue to do.”
The ACLU report also states about 90 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession are black.
“For too many years we’ve put non-violent drug offenders behind bars, disproportionately affecting African-American males, especially in the District of Columbia,” Grosso said. “It’s time for us to step up and stop that from happening. The way to stop that is decriminalization.”
Grosso was elected as an at-large councilmember last November.
Mayor Vincent Gray has not taken a position on decriminalization, but a spokesman says “he welcomes the discussion.”
The District has also legalized medical marijuana.
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