Pubdate: Thu, 24 Oct 2013
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2013 The Washington Post Company
Author: Aaron C. Davis


D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) on Wednesday offered his first 
unequivocal support for decriminalizing possession of small amounts 
of marijuana, adding momentum to a legislative proposal that has the 
support of a supermajority on the D.C. Council and could make the 
District one of the nation's most lenient jurisdictions on marijuana 

Under a measure proposed by council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), 
possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in the District would 
no longer be punishable by six months in jail and a penalty of $1,000.

Instead, those caught with amounts of the drug deemed for personal 
use would risk only a civil charge and a ticket of $100 - the 
equivalent of parking in a no-parking area in the District at rush hour.

Wells, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor, and civil 
liberties groups have urged passage of the measure. They say the 
District's marijuana laws have disproportionately affected African 
Americans and have saddled some residents with criminal records, 
making it hard for them to find gainful employment.

Wells and council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) have scheduled a 
two-part hearing on the bill, beginning Wednesday night in Southeast 
Washington and continuing Thursday at the John A. Wilson Building.

Gray said that his surrogates would testify Thursday in favor of 
decriminalizing marijuana.

"I support decriminalization. Legalization is another issue. I'm not 
there on that issue, yet," the mayor said, alluding to laws such as 
those in Colorado and Washington state.

This past summer, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier urged a "robust 
discussion" of the legislation, calling it a significant issue and 
saying she has concerns about the risks marijuana poses for children, 
as well as the potential conflict with federal law.

Staff members in Gray's and Wells's offices said neither Lanier nor 
anyone else from the police department was scheduled to testify Thursday.
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