- ISIL creates all-female brigade to terrorize women into following Sharia law
- ISTOOK: Obama wants to be impeached
- Obama to Latin leaders: Help with border
- Military bans troops from Baptist church event honoring ‘God’s Rescue Squad’
- ‘Pocket drones’: U.S. Army developing tiny surveillance tools for the next big war
- Belgian cafe posts sign: Dogs allowed, but Jews stay out
- Gen. Dempsey: Pentagon studying Russian readiness plans not viewed ‘for 20 years’
- John McCain: Botched, two-hour execution of murderer is ‘torture’
- House GOP ready to move border bill
- Bomb squad called after live WWII artillery washes on Cape Cod beach
Change to pot laws could be cash cow for D.C. with fines instead of jail
Question of the Day
The District could stand to benefit financially from decriminalization of marijuana, but activists are divided over whether police would enforce the law more harshly because the city has a financial incentive.
Some marijuana activists say the number of people police stop for having marijuana could increase if the decriminalization bill is passed, since it would take less time to write a ticket than to arrest and book someone.
“The city council bill will raise revenue for the city meaning that more people will be shook down by police. You can’t do it halfway,” said Adam Eidinger, who is behind an effort to put full marijuana legalization before D.C. voters.
But others say a fine is still a better alternative to jail time and that residents likely will learn to absorb financial penalties.
“We have the speed cameras and incredibly efficient parking enforcement and all the fines and nuisances that come with city life, so we are kind of used to being dinged,” said Paul Zukerberg, a lawyer who ran for a seat on the D.C. Council this year on the platform of marijuana law reform. “I don’t think police are going to really be encouraged to write tickets just because of this fine.”
Under a bill with widespread support in the D.C. Council, a person found in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana would be issued a $100 fine and made to forfeit the drug. Current law makes possession punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
D.C. Council member Anita Bonds said she wouldn’t be surprised if the city eventually looked to the fines as a revenue generator.
“We have a very strong reputation in the District of Columbia for knowing how to collect fines, so I don’t doubt that it is being considered,” the at-large Democrat said.
Sensitive to the issue, council member Tommy Wells said that’s why he modeled the bill on legislation from Massachusetts, where the law has already been road-tested.
“That gave me some assurance that it will work for D.C. as well,” the Ward 6 Democrat said.
The Massachusetts bill was passed in 2008, and the American Civil Liberties Union says civil fines have not been used to harass people.
“After Massachusetts decriminalized, the state did not see a rise in civil marijuana ticketing by police, as one might expect if financial incentives were driving the enforcement,” said Seema Sadanandan, an attorney with the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital. “Instead, the problem there has been that police have misconstrued sharing as distribution, and used that as a basis to continue making a significant number of criminal arrests.”
With the ACLU lending a hand in drafting the District’s bill, Ms. Sadanandan said language was included to avoid the that issue from the outset.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier has previously said her department has not prioritized marijuana arrests. Through a spokeswoman, she declined last week to comment on her thoughts about legalization of the drug.
An ACLU report that drew attention to the issue this summer concluded that law enforcement officers in the District made a total of 5,393 marijuana-related arrests in 2010.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Andrea Noble is a crime and public safety reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
- D.C. seeks stay in order striking down ban on handguns in public
- Federal judge rules D.C. ban on handguns in public is unconstitutional
- Let it roll: D.C. Council hits Las Vegas on taxpayer's dime, leaves $14,000 tab
- Term limits still in question after 22 years in Prince George's County
- ACLU slams Gray on issues of transparency
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Mark Davis
The nation founders, the Lone Star State thrives
- Rahm Emanuel: Send illegal immigrant shelter kids to Chicago
- 'Pocket drones': U.S. Army developing tiny spies for the next big war
- Tactical advantage: Russian military shows off impressive new gear
- CURL: Obama, staffers not even pretending any more
- Pentagon running out of time to find mass of missing weapons in Afghanistan
- Family of Marine killed in Afghanistan pushes back against cover-up
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Military bans troops from Baptist church event honoring 'God's Rescue Squad'
- WEST: Those who would rather join the jihadi army than their own nation's army
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq