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D.C. takes steps to legalize pot, is Virginia above the influence?

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D.C. takes step toward legalizing pot for private use.

(CNN) — The Washington City Council passed a measure on Tuesday that would move the District of Columbia one step closer to decriminalizing marijuana in most cases.

Members approved the bill 11-to-1 in the first of two votes likely this month.

The core proposal would decriminalize marijuana for most private uses and lower the punishment for using the drug in public in the nation’s capital.

But supporters of that didn’t get everything they wanted.

An amendment was added that would continue to make smoking pot in public a misdemeanor, something the measure’s original supporters oppose.

All council members supported the amendment except for Tommy Wells, the Democrat who has spearheaded the decriminalization efforts.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who proposed the amendment, said he just wants to bring marijuana in line with alcohol — legal to use in private, illegal to use in public.

Despite the late change, the proposal is expected to receive final passage and become law because it has the support of a majority of and Mayor Vincent Gray.

Last month, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring indicated he wanted to see how other states act before Virginia considers changes.

“Before Virginia goes down that path I think we need to see what the experience is in those states,” Herring said.

Virginia may be able to observe D.C. soon.

Between now and a final vote, possibly as early as February 18, competing sides will try to iron out their differences over public use of marijuana.

The lone vote against the bill was Yvette Alexander, who broadly does not support decriminalizing marijuana.

For the council members who supported the plan, decriminalizing marijuana has become just as much about racial disparities as about sanctioning use of the drug.

“The evidence of racial disparities in D.C. arrests for marijuana is undeniable and the socioeconomic impacts on African American residents are indisputable,” Wells, who is also running for mayor, said in a statement after the vote. “I am proud that we have taken this step, with support from so many on the D.C. Council, to decriminalize marijuana.”

Congress may have a say in the matter, too, as it has oversight of D.C. laws.

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


  • Daniel Beasley

    Excellent, right now anyone who is arrested for personal use is being discriminated against by the Fed. Gov., and I would advise them to call for Obama and Holder as defense witnesses against entrapment.

  • JS Ruf

    There is presently no greater affront to individual liberty, rational juris prudence or compassionate social justice than the outright, outmoded and outrageous prohibition of cannabis by responsible adults.

    “Won’t someone please think of the children?!?,” you might shriek, eyes wild and knees jerking in trembling rancor, reefer madness imagery blinding your sight of reality.

    Hemp was the first crop of any use made by Virginians, long before the demon tobacco was made into a legitimate commodity. Not only would good sense lead us to again produce hemp for energy, food and materials, moral virtue would lead us to produce its botanical cousin – cannabis sativa – for medicinal and adult recreational consumption.

    Won’t someone think of the children? We are. Prohibition eases kids’ access to it, while making criminals out of the otherwise law-abiding – and throwing countless millions of tax dollars drainward in so doing.

    • Adam

      We need legalization as soon as possible. The sooner we realize this and do it. There is less chance of more potential damage and the chance to save lives!

  • John H Johnson III

    I wrote this Act for my legislatures to present to the assembly and both told me they will not listen to voters in their district. As I work on them I am hoping we vote them out of office so that other representatives of my district in Chester Virginia are truly represented. If anyone could help I would greatly appreciated it.

    My legislatures are:

    Delegate Kirkland Cox Republican – 804-526-5135 –
    1 (804) 698-1066 while in session,


    Senator Stephen Martin – 804-674-0242 –
    9501 Hull Street Rd. Suite D, Chesterfield, 23236

    Call them!!

  • edmccann

    We should applaud DC and support its decision to decriminalize cannabis possession. It should go further and set up a regulated marketplace and do away with the black market altogether.

    Now Virginia cannabis consumers will have to forfeit their freedom when returning to the Commonwealth from our nation’s capital. That is an affront to us as a Virginians, so therefore we will end this futile Cannabis Prohibition sooner, rather than later.

  • Cam Krout

    One of the DEA’s own administrative judges once said something to the effect of, “Cannabis is one of the safest pharmacologically-active substances known to man”. This is accurate, and in addition, Cannabis meets NONE of the criteria for Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act (high potential for abuse, no accepted medical value, a lack of safety for its use even under medical supervision). Methamphetamine, cocaine, and PCP are all listed as Schedule II, and Cannabis is still misclassified as Schedule I. Cannabis has a low potential for abuse (certainly lower than methamphetamine & cocaine), a plethora of legitimate medical uses, and is safe to use even without medical supervision.

    Virginia should follow the same steps that the DC city council has taken, and legalize Cannabis for recreational use. Our current drug policy is a joke

  • Marshall Chase

    Colorado collected over a million dollars in tax revenue their first month on sales of a substance proven to be far more benign than the alcohol sold in Virginia in state stores.

  • Franco

    I recently took part of the Lobby day in Richmond on behalf of NORML. I was interviewed by your station. It would appear the D.C. agrees with me that an adult has the ability to make an intelligent decision. if someone chooses to use cannabis responsibly they shouldn’t be a criminal.

  • krissy

    The government should just quit being stupid and legalize marijuana. Haven’t they pointlessly wasted enough money? How many studies do they need to see that prove that marijuana is medicine? Enough is enough.

  • Antonio

    At this point the AG’s cautious temperament is embarrassingly out of step. Cannabis is the most studied plant in human history and we all know how benign it is at this point. Why wait a few years and continue a failed policy? A few years may seem like a reasonable period of caution but in reality it means that thousands of Virginians will continue to be unjustly incarcerated, they will continue to needlessly garner a criminal record, our prisons will continue to bloat, our government will continue to spend, and our gangs will continue to profit from this downright idiotic policy. Marijuana needs to be legalized yesterday, stalling for the prison-industrial complex should not continue for a moment longer.

  • Ted

    Anyone who thinks another “study” is needed prior to legalization continues to live in the past. Come on Virginia, it’s time.

  • Joe

    How is something medicine in one place but not another? Politics, not science. VIRGINIANS SUPPORT LEGALIZATION!!!

  • Joseph

    Like most I agree that cannabis is nothing more than a plant. Who are we to judge what HE has created, better yet what kind of person has the audacity to deny ones well being or insult them by saying their choice of treatment is wrong or criminal. I whole heartedly support the consumption and use of recreational and medical marijuana, so do us all a favor and stand up for The People.

  • Bonnee

    I’m a native NORML Virginian and I believe Virginia needs to allow it’s adults citizens the right to make their own choices. We need to legalize it now and support those with medical needs, allow safer options for those just wanting to relax after work, and most important to the politicians it seems – increase our tax revenue and create jobs in our lovely state. Virginia is for Lovers, so let’s show some love for all Virginians!

  • Mike

    Cannabis prohibition creates more personal and social costs then regulation does. Studies after studies from economists to scientists to health professionals conclude this. Additionally traffic fatalities are down in states that have decriminalized cannabis. I would suggest visiting VA NORML as they have recently consolidated numerous peer reviewed studies.

    The bottom line is this- cannabis is relatively safe- lowered addiction rates than coffee and tobacco and less harmful to one’s body than alcohol and refined sugars. It is non-toxic from the standpoint that one cannot overdose ( which some could few as being safer than water or peanuts). These points are recognized as verifiable facts, not an opinion.

    Why let the gangsters control the market? Folks under 18 ease of access hasn’t been reduced under the current arrest model. Honestly as a parent I would rather my teenager exerpiment with cannabis than alcohol or cigs. It comes down to harm reduction. Tax and regulate, use the tax rev for public good.

  • Jeremy

    I hate that I had to turn to beer to relax after work. I wake up feeling like . carp. Cannabis was good for me, my body told me so

Comments are closed.