On Tuesday, Washington DC Councilman David Grosso introduced legislation to legalize marijuana possession and consumption by individuals age 21 and older. Medical marijuana has been legal in DC for almost 15 years, and their first dispensary opened only a few months ago. However, Grosso believes recreational has a fighting change in our nation’s capitol.
If Grosso’s proposed law were enacted, it would legalize the possession of marijuana and private use of marijuana by individuals age 21 and older. It would also levy a 10% tax on recreational marijuana and a 6% tax on medical marijuana. The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration would issue licenses to recreational marijuana stores in the district.
Washington DC currently has the highest arrest rate per capita for marijuana crimes. A recent ACLU study showed that about 846 in 100,000 District residents were arrested for marijuana possession in 2010. Black residents were 8.05 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white residents.
Grosso said, “”Most people understand the role that marijuana has played in our community: Unlike what was touted for years during the ‘War on Drugs’ that it’s a gateway drug, really all marijuana’s been is a gateway to arrest and a lifetime of struggling with the justice system.”
A marijuana decriminalization bill has also been proposed in DC, but Grosso believes that that will only create more problems by increasing the demand for marijuana without giving users anywhere safe or legal to purchase it.
In Washington DC, Congress has the ability to block laws, which they initially did when medical marijuana was passed in 1998. However, Grosso believes that times have changed. He does not think that they would act to block a marijuana legalization bill if it is approved by the city council.
A voter-initiated legalization referendum, he added, isn’t ideal, but it may be successfully pushed by residents next year if the council doesn’t act first.