D.C. council votes to decriminalize pot

WASHINGTON – Which offense is likely to carry a bigger fine soon in Washington, D.C.?

a) Parking near a fire hydrant.

b) Possessing pot.

If you answered “a,” you are correct: Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana would be a civil infraction with a $25 fine under a plan that won easy approval from the District of Columbia City Council on Tuesday.

Backers called it one of the most lenient decriminalization laws in the nation and said the next step would be to make marijuana fully legal in the nation’s capital, as Colorado and Washington state did in 2012.

The bill passed on a 10-1 vote. Once it’s signed by Mayor Vincent Gray, Congress will have 30 working days to review the new law, which means it might not take effect until summer. Congress has the authority to overturn any laws the council passes.

Congress put D.C.’s medical marijuana plan on ice after it passed in 1998, but no one’s expecting a peep of opposition on Capitol Hill this time, another sign of the drug’s surging public acceptance, as reflected by public opinion polls.

“This is just not on their radar,” said Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The story is just how much things have changed. Congress just doesn’t care because they’ve got the message this is really popular.”


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