Marijuana decriminalization has now become a reality for residents in the District of Columbia, after the city council passed a bill Tuesday that would lessen charges for users of the narcotic. Under this new ruling, which Washington mayor Vincent Gray intends to sign into law, will allow marijuana users to possess and use the drug inside their homes without charges.
The ruling adds fuel to a growing debate surrounding legalization of the popular drug, following landmark cases of marijuana becoming legal in Colorado and Washington state recently. As noted by a Washington Post report, the nation’s capital joins 17 states that have moved to decriminalization, although none have taken the next step in all out legalization.
The District also stopped short of legalizing public smoking — a decision influenced by the input of police officials, parents and others who remain unconvinced that full decriminalization is a good step for the city.
The District’s unique rules of governance require the bill to sit before a congressional panel for 60 days before it becomes law, but several advocates said they don’t expect federal lawmakers to intervene.
In the state of Maryland, lawmakers are at odds over two bills that will decriminalize marijuana and also put to vote legalizing the drug as well.
There are still conflicts with the federal portion of the law regarding marijuana possession, and there exists concerns over enforcement of the new law on public property such as the historic landmarks in and throughout Washington.
Naturally, opponents of the bill are not thrilled, arguing that this new measure will lead to more people smoking or using marijuana in the public. There are still many legal implications for using marijuana or selling the controlled substance in public or privately, thus leaving many lawmakers conflicted on moving ahead with supporting the bill.
There is a strong push by pro-marijuana activists who want a vote on full legalization of the drug put on this November’s ballot. The measure could be decided on by the city’s Election Board this week.