D.C. voters have spoken and are prepared to bring a ballot measure that would either decriminalize small amounts of marijuana or legalize it altogether. But, city councilmembers aren’t convinced that having the voters write the policy is the best idea. Marion Berry (D-Ward 8) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) are just two that are looking at a decriminalization bill that would beat voters to the punch.
“Absolutely, it’s time we look at decriminalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia,” said Wells, according to The Daily Chronic. Wells is chairman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee and who is running for mayor next year. “It’s time we enter the 21st century and stop criminalizing people . . . for what is not really a major crime.”
Another councilmember, Anita Bonds (D-At Large) says she is considering a bill, as is at-large Independent councilman David Grosso who wants to not only decriminalize pot, but legalize it altogether.
One councilman stands in their way. Phil Mendelson is opposed to the idea.
“I don’t think it’s the right time,” said Mendelson. “I don’t think decriminalization of marijuana will go over easily with Congress.”
He’s right. The federal government won’t approve of any measures that lessen penalties for marijuana, but especially legalization. The federal government has stood firm on its laws against the plant and have gone so far as to arrest and prosecute people within the medical marijuana industry. However, fear of the feds hasn’t stopped several other states from loosening up marijuana laws.
Activists within the District have already been discussing a November 2014 ballot measure. And with a Piblic Policy Polling survey showing that about 75% of voters support decriminalization and 63% supporting all-out legalization, they have a pretty good shot at success.
Legislators never like to be on the reactive side. They want to write the policies, not frame them around what the voters have spoken up for. It seems the District of Columbia has a bit of a race on its hands. And barring Councilman Mendelson’s opposition, it could be a pretty tight one.
In the meantime, if you are caught with marijuana (whether it’s a simple possession charge or a drug dealing charge), contact our offices today to discuss your case. We represent criminal defendants against drug charges in D.C. and Maryland, so call today for a free consultation.