New Marijuana Law Takes Effect Thursday

The decriminalization of small marijuana possession in Washington will take effect Thursday, July 17 following the expiration of a congressional review period.

Approved by the District of Columbia Council, the law will make D.C.’s penalties for marijuana possession among the lowest in the country.

“Public support for ending marijuana prohibition is at an all-time high nationwide,” Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “It is only fitting… Criminalizing adults for using marijuana is quickly becoming an antiquated policy in the United States.”

Criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession, previously punished with of up to six months in jail and a fines of up to $1,000, will be replaced with a $25 civil fine, similar to a parking ticket. Parents or legal guardians of offenders under 18 years of age will be notified of citations.

With a marijuana arrest rate higher than any state in the nation, the new law change is a step to focusing on the capital’s more serious issues, according to Capecchi. “Adults in the District will no longer face potentially life-altering criminal penalties simply for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol,” Capecchi said.

Blacks are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than Whites despite using marijuana at similar rates, according to a report released in June by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This is a big step forward, but there is still room for improvement,” Capecchi said.

For more information, visit Marijuana Policy.