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Top 5 Things You Should Know But Probably Don’t About Weed in Washington, D.C.

  1. The 2015 White House Correspondent’s dinner is liable to be loaded with laughs, liquor, and pot. Under the new decriminalization law that took effect July 17 in Washington, D.C., violators who possess one ounce or less of weed will be punishable by a $25 ticket. This is one of the laxest drug laws in the nation. Decriminalization for D.C. means first-time offenders who possess small amounts of marijuana for personal consumption will avoid the slammer.
  2. The new order says that the odor of marijuana does not constitute a “reasonable articulable suspicion” that the law has been violated. An officer must have evidence that a person has more than one ounce of the drug, and an officer cannot assume a person has a larger amount just because he or she is holding “multiple containers” of the drug. At first glance, the rules create an almost impossible burden on how an officer approaches and investigates a suspected marijuana violation.

  3. Marijuana is a powerful racial symbol of injustice in a city purportedly built on liberty and justice for all. The advent of the new law was spurred by reports of stark racial disparities in marijuana arrest statistics. The decriminalization bill was originally introduced by Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) as a way to address the huge racial disparity in marijuana-related arrests in D.C. An ACLU study showed 90 percent of Washingtonians arrested on charges of possession were black, in a city where blacks are 50 percent of the population.
  4. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), a Grinch-like character, tried to block decriminalization, adding an amendment into the appropriations bill because, as he so eloquently put it, pot is “poison to a teenager’s brain.” The White House openly opposed the Republican-led legislation that would have prevented Washington, D.C. from using federal funds to decriminalize marijuana possession. Obama et al. told conservative members of Congress who, thanks to the Constitution, get a big say in local affairs, to leave the matter up to the states. Do not think Obama had a supernatural out-of-body experience and suddenly developed a soft spot for weed: under federal law, federal law enforcement officers may arrest anyone in the District for possession of any amount of marijuana.
  5. 5. Supporters of legalized marijuana recently delivered more than double the signatures needed to put the issue on a Nov. 4 ballot. Passage of the measure labeled Initiative 71 would align the city with Colorado and Washington, where recreational marijuana became legal this year. The result is that those crotchety conservatives who opposed decriminalization in D.C. may be even less enthralled with their mini-mansions in the sky if the ballot initiative passes come November.
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