It has been almost a month since Washington DC officially decriminalized minor pot possession, which now punishes offenders with a $25 citation instead of criminal penalties. However, administrative officials say that tokers and not taking these tickets seriously, because so far, no one has stepped up to pay their fine.
According to the DC Office of Administrative Hearings, police officers have busted 35 individuals for possession of less than an ounce of weed since the new decriminalization law went into effect in mid-July. But apparently, District pot smokers subscribe to similar beliefs as the majority of marijuana advocates across the United States who believe that penalizing a person, in any way, for possessing a personal stash of marijuana is ridiculous. This could be the reason the District has yet to receive a single payment from those busted with weed.
Even the Washington City Paper, who offered to pay the tickets of the first five pot offenders in exchange for their story, says no one has taken them up on their offer. “We have gotten none so far — not one,” Editor Mike Madden told ABC affiliate WJLA.
Before the law was passed, some District officials, including DC Police Union President Delroy Burton, argued that issuing citations for pot possession was a waste of time because there was no way to strictly enforce the law. Burton said that people popped for pot could forge their identity since officers are not legally permitted to ask them for identification, which easily gives a person the opportunity to provide them with false information.
DC council members who supported the decriminalization measure agree that something needs to be put in place to assist law enforcement on this matter. “If we have a ticket, it has to be enforceable, so any law on the books that’s not enforceable is a concern,” said Council member Muriel Bowser.
Yet, residents of some District neighborhoods claim police are skipping the tickets and going straight for the arrest. “They lockin’ us up every way they can,” one man told ABC News. “I ain’t seen one [ticket] yet. I don’t know not one person that got a ticket.”
District police arrested almost as many people in the past month for marijuana-related offenses than they issued tickets — 30 arrests were made for offenses ranging for public pot consumption, intent to sell, and possession of over an ounce.
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