D.C. Council votes to decriminalize marijuana

The D.C. Council passed the decriminalization of marijuana Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo
The D.C. Council passed the decriminalization of marijuana Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo

After months of debate, possession of small amounts of pot in the District will now cost about as much as a parking ticket.

The D.C. Council voted on Tuesday to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, a long-anticipated bill that will remove the possibility of hefty fines, a misdemeanor charge or jailtime for individuals caught with fewer than one ounce of marijuana.

Instead, the penalty would be a $25 fee.

About 17 states across the country have passed decriminalization bills. While D.C.’s bill would be more progressive than many, it would not decriminalize smoking marijuana in public.

Just one Council member, Yvette Alexander, opposed the bill. The Council voted down an amendment floated by Council member Vincent Orange to block employers from testing job applicants for marijuana use.

Mayor Vincent Gray has also voiced support for the bill, which will now need his signature and approval from Congress.

But University Police Department Chief Kevin Hay said last fall that decriminalizing marijuana would not affect rules at GW.

““Either way, it’s a smokeless campus. You can’t smoke cigarettes in your room, you can’t smoke pot in your room, a burning pizza box in the oven or any of that is a concern for us,” Hay said in October.

A January Washington Post poll showed for the first time 63 percent of District residents support legalizing marijuana.

Congress and D.C. leaders first clashed over marijuana-related legislation in 1998 when Congress blocked legislation to legalize medical marijuana for over a decade. Congress eventually reversed its decision in 2009, allowing D.C. to join the 20 states where marijuana use is permitted for medical purposes. The first medical marijuana sales in the District occurred this July.

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