This post was written by staff writer Catherine Moran.
D.C. Council members proposed various pieces legislation during their first legislative meeting of the year Tuesday, from building up the Metropolitan Police Department to full marijuana legalization.
Here are the top three proposed laws you should know.
1. Fully legalizing marijuana
At-large Council member David Grosso proposed a bill that would fully legalize marijuana in the District. While marijuana was decriminalized in D.C. and voters approved adult recreational use in 2014, Grosso’s legislation addresses past congressional intervention that prevented the city from regulating and taxing marijuana.
In June, Congress, which has jurisdiction over D.C., blocked an amendment that would have allowed the city to use funds for a legal marijuana retail market, according to Extract, a website focused on marijuana coverage.
“We know the war on drugs is and was a failure,” Grosso said, adding that it contributed to an increase in mass incarceration and is “racial in its implementation.”
Grosso said that his act is the logical next step in setting up a strong tax and regulatory system. The Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will now work on and address the legislation.
2. Increasing law enforcement numbers
Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray proposed a bill to increase D.C. police staffing, saying that MPD staffing is at the “lowest level in a decade.” MPD has more than 4,000 sworn and civilian members, according MPD, but Interim Police Chief Peter Newsham told Fox News in October that the number of sworn officers was slightly above 3,700.
Gray said former D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier emphasized meeting the 3,800 minimum officer threshold for several years as officer retention plagued the department.
The alumnus and former mayor said the city’s population surge requires increasing the number of sworn officers from 4,000 to 4,200, saying it was important to “increase the number of officers deployed to help neighborhoods most plagued by violent crime.”
The proposed legislation would set aside “adequate” funding in the budget for MPD, which would help to cover the cost of hiring, training and equipping officers, Gray said.
3. Access to free Wi-Fi
Ward 4 Council member Brandon Todd introduced legislation to create a taskforce that will work to provide and oversee construction for free wireless internet access in the District. Todd said free Wi-Fi will be beneficial to D.C.’s economy. People with lower incomes can miss the chance to pursue other opportunities without access to the internet, where most job applications are now hosted, he said.
“Today high-speed broadband is not a luxury – it’s a necessity,” Todd said, “The internet divide is an economic divide.”
Todd said cities like New York and Boston have increased accessibility to free Wi-Fi. New York recently added free Wi-Fi and cellphone service in the subway system, according to The New York Times.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced their plans to add Wi-Fi to all underground Metro stations in December.