We have a huge opportunity to end the mass arrests of people in DC for the possession of small amounts of marijuana and we need your help -- today.
Legislation is on the Council's agenda tomorrow that includes important revisions to the original legislation introduced last summer. Despite two public hearings that showed overwhelming support for this change in DC - the Council could still make changes to weaken the bill. It is anticipated that several amendments will be offered that may attempt to water down the effectiveness of the bill by increasing the fines, criminalizing public consumption or weakening the provisions protecting people from searches by officers – all of which would disproportionately harm African-American residents and also low-income and homeless residents.
The legislation is now on the Council’s agenda for tomorrow, Tuesday, February 4th. Please take just a minute to call or email your Ward Councilmember and At-Large Councilmembers Orange, Bonds, and Catania before Tuesday to ask them to approve this bill “as is.”
Here are the important changes that make the legislation a much better approach to reducing arrests and addressing the harm associated with criminalization of marijuana:
- The fine for possession one ounce or less was lowered from $100 to $25 for both adults and juveniles.
- The required drug awareness class for juveniles was dropped but they still get a letter sent home to parents.
- There is a new fine for public consumption (smoking) of marijuana of $100 for both adults and juveniles. This applies anywhere in D.C. including inside schools and other public buildings and spaces.
- Both the possession and consumption fine are handled in a similar manner to a parking violation.
- There is a new provision that bars the police from treating odor of marijuana and/or possession of an ounce or less as probable cause to conduct a search of a person or their possessions for criminal conduct.
- There are new provisions that state that refraining from marijuana use is not an automatic condition of probation or supervised release for both juveniles and adults. The judge has to explicitly forbid marijuana use.
Through our work with the courts, HIPS has seen the harmful unintended consequences of criminalization of drug use that perpetuate cycles of abuse and incarceration, and how it disproportionately affects people of color in DC. We have seen jobs lost, lives damaged by arrest and incarceration. This legislation will help us focus on what's important here in DC -- addressing problematic drug use as a public health issue and remove barriers to changing lives.
Please take a moment to take action today.
Here's contact information for the Council:
Phil Mendelson - Chair firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 724-8032
David A. Catania - Councilmember (At-Large) email@example.com (202) 724-7772
Anita Bonds - Councilmember (At-Large) firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 724-8064
David Grosso - Councilmember (At-Large) email@example.com (202) 724-8105
Vincent Orange - Councilmember (At-Large) firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 724-8174
Jim Graham - Councilmember (Ward 1) email@example.com (202) 724-8181
Jack Evans - Councilmember (Ward 2) firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 724-8058
Mary M. Cheh - Councilmember (Ward 3) email@example.com (202) 724-8062
Muriel Bowser - Councilmember - (Ward 4) firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 724-8052
Kenyan McDuffie - Councilmember (Ward 5) email@example.com (202) 724-8028
Tommy Wells - Councilmember (Ward 6) firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 724-8072
Yvette M. Alexander - Councilmember (Ward 7) email@example.com (202) 724-8068
Marion Barry - Councilmember (Ward 8) firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 724-8045