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District of Columbia

Possession of small amounts of marijuana should soon be decriminalized in the nation’s capital.

The D.C. City Council voted overwhelmingly for the Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014. Only a single member of the council voted against it.

The bill would make possession of up to an ounce of marijuana only a civil infraction punishable with just a $25 fine. Currently in the District of Columbia possession of marijuana can result in up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Reports showing the massive racial disparity in marijuana arrests within the District played a big role inĀ  encouraging the council to take action.

The bill will need to be voted on again by the Council after its second reading next month. Some amendments will potentially be offered at that time. Once finally approved at the local level the issue then moves to the US Congress which has 60 days to take action.

Because of the incredibly unfair, anti-democratic rules governing D.C. the US Congress has to power to override any laws approved by the local government despite the citizens of D.C. not even being allowed to vote for their own members of Congress. In the past Congress blocked D.C. medical marijuana laws for over a decade.

Hopefully, this time Congress will simply choose to do nothing for 60 days and allow decriminalization to go into effect. Recent statements by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) make it unlikely he would allow the Senate to actively meddle in this local issue.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy