DC Council Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana

By Melanie Arter | March 5, 2014 | 4:19pm EST

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2013 file photo, marijuana is displayed at the River Rock dispensary in Denver.  (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

(CNSNews.com) – The D.C. City Council voted Tuesday to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, making possession an ounce or less of the drug a civil offense punishable by a fine of $25.

Councilmember Tommy Wells, the bill’s lead sponsor, called the vote “a victory for social justice and a major step for the nation’s capital.”

“This bill is a tremendous stride to end the disproportionate impact of marijuana arrests that keep our residents from jobs, higher education and housing opportunities. The evidence of racial disparities in arrests and the failures of the war on drugs are undeniable and the negative socioeconomic impacts on African American residents are indisputable,” Wells said in a statement on his website.

Current law makes marijuana possession a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Further, smoking marijuana in public carried the same punishment. Under the proposed decriminalization, smoking the drug publicly would lead to up to 60 days behind bars and a $500 fine.

Mayor Vincent Gray is expected to sign the bill into law.

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