DC decriminalizes marijuana

BY Justin Scuiletti  March 31, 2014 at 5:17 PM EST
Photo by Tony Avelar / The Christian Science Monitor

Photo by Tony Avelar / The Christian Science Monitor

Updated March 31 at 5:17 p.m. EDT
Washington Mayor Vincent Gray signed into law Monday a bill that decriminalizes marijuana possession of an ounce or less in the District of Columbia.

Possession of pot, previously a misdemeanor, will now be a civil violation under the law and draw a penalty of $25.

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Original post, from March 4, follows:

In the near future, the use of marijuana in the privacy of one’s home may no longer draw criminal charges in the nation’s capital.

The bill, passed Tuesday by a 10 to 1 vote by the Washington D.C. Council, would also drop criminal offenses for marijuana possession and focus on civil fines, with a fine of only $25 for possession of up to one ounce — the second lowest penalty in the U.S. Smoking marijuana in public would remain a criminal offense, but would draw only a misdemeanor charge.

The measure’s next stop is Washington Mayor Vincent Gray’s office; Gray is expected to sign it.

But a possible hurdle for the bill remains. Any signed bill would have to travel to Congress, which has veto power over local laws in Washington — though that authority has only seen use three times since 1979, according to The Washington Post’s reporting.

If the bill passes its next hurdles, D.C. would join 17 states that have partially decriminalized marijuana. While those states have broken federal drug laws, the Justice Department under President Barack Obama has not pursued any action against them.