The District of Columbia unanimously passed a bill today decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, carrying the support of eight of the 13 District Council members as well as that of Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
The bill removes serious penalties for possession of less and one ounce of marijuana for those over the age of 18, replacing them with a $25 fine. Juveniles caught would additionally have their parents notified.
This move was seen as long overdue by both cannabis and human rights advocates, as D.C. has the highest arrest rate for cannabis possession in the country, which surpasses the national average 3 times over. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report last year citing that African Americans are more than eight times more likely to be arrested for possession than Caucasians.
“The stigma and consequences of an arrest and conviction for marijuana possession are overly burdensome, and present obstacles to obtaining an education or meaningful employment,” Dan Riffle, Director of Federal Policies for the Marijuana Policy Project said in a statement. “So it’s particularly shameful that the burdens fall almost exclusively on the District’s minority community.”