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March 7, 2014, Friday, 05:13 GMT | 00:13 EST | 10:43 IST | 13:13 SGT
Contributed by Millennium Traders


Possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for personal consumption in Washington D.C. is no longer a crime, per City Council vote on Tuesday. District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray has publicly supported the measure and is expected to sign it shortly. Pro-marijuana activists are pushing for a vote on full legalization of pot to be put on November 2014 ballot which could be decided on by the city’s Election Board this week.

The measure announced Tuesday reduces the maximum penalty for possession of up to one ounce of pot to a $25 civil fine, similar to that of a parking ticket. The current repercussions for possession of any amount of pot could land a person in jail for up to six months, with a fine of up to $1,000 - disrupting lives and over-loading prison population, space that is needed for serious criminals. It will remain a crime to smoke pot in public in D.C. under the new legislation.

Gray areas for policing possession in D.C. include that arrests can not be made merely by the smell of pot by D.C. police officers - they have to see the marijuana smoke. Marijuana-impaired in public would not be a crime equal to public intoxication, unless it occurs behind the wheel. D.C. law would preclude police from charging people with possession or dealing if they simultaneously possess large amounts of cash and several bags of marijuana. Some advocates say that poorer residents are often paid for their work in cash and buy the drug in small amounts multiple times on their payday.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, D.C. currently has the highest arrest rate in the country for marijuana possession with 91% of arrests for possession of pot are for black people.

National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws reports D.C. would be the 18th state to decriminalized possession of marijuana. Decriminalization means no prison time or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount of pot considered for personal consumption. The states include: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents D.C. said, “I do not expect members of Congress to interfere with D.C.’s local right to pass its own law on marijuana decriminalization. If members try to interfere, however, I will stoutly defend D.C.’s right to pass such legislation, just as 17 states have already done.” Even though Congress has oversight over the District of Columbia since it is not a state, legislation was only ever overturned three times since 1973, most recently in 1991, according to Daniel van Hoogstraten, a spokesman for Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents D.C.

Ohio Republican House Speaker John Boehner didn’t take a position on the measure but said, “I really haven’t seen what the D.C. council did, but I’m sure we’ll look at it.”