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DC Voters Poised To Eliminate Pot Possession Penalties This Fall

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Voters in the nation’s capitol are poised to end minor marijuana offenses this fall.

According to the results of an NBC News/Washington Post/Marist DC poll released this week, 65 percent of the District’s registered voters explicitly support Initiative 71, which will appear on the ballot this November. Only 33 percent of those polled said that they oppose the effort.

Initiative Measure 71, the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014, seeks to remove all criminal and civil penalties in regard to the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants for those over the age of 21. Unlike recently enacted laws in Colorado and Washington, the DC’s municipal initiative does not seek to establish a retail, commercial market for cannabis production or sales.

The poll results were released just days after the editors of the Washington Post opined against the measure, arguing, “[I]t would be prudent for the District not to make a change that could well prove to be misguided until more is known (about the effects of marijuana).” However, the majority of DC voters, as now do most Americans, believe otherwise.

Nonetheless, even if District voters expectedly approve I-71 this fall, members of the DC City Council still possess the authority to amend  the measure. Members of Congress could also potentially halt the law’s implementation.  Federal lawmakers possess oversight regarding the implementation of all District laws.

This spring, DC city council members approved legislation reducing minor marijuana possession offenses in the District to a $25 civil fine. That measure took effect this summer. Prior to the change, DC residents faced a greater statistical likelihood of being arrested for pot possession than did residents of any other part of the United States.

Paul Armentano is Deputy Director of NORML

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