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D.C. Council Votes To Relieve People With Prior Marijuana Possession Arrest


washington dc marijuana decriminalizationThe ‘marijuana scarlet letter’ is a terrible thing. Get busted for marijuana even one time, and it can ruin your ability to get college financial aid, to get a job, to get approved for a home, etc. It’s a detail that people like Kevin Sabet try to gloss over. Marijuana does not ruin someone’s life, but getting busted for marijuana absolutely can ruin your life. Fortunately for residents of Washington D.C. that were busted for personal marijuana possession, the process to seal those convictions was strengthened yesterday. Below is a press release from the Drug Policy Alliance talking about this historic vote by the Washington D.C. Council:

The D.C. Council voted unanimously today in favor of a bill that would improve the process by which a person can seal criminal records pertaining to conduct that has since been decriminalized or legalized. The D.C. Council is expected to take a final vote on the bill in late October and it will then go to Mayor Vincent Gray for his review. (Laws passed by the D.C. Council must be voted on twice.) Advocates are calling this a major step toward acknowledging the stigma and discrimination that people living in the District of Columbia with a marijuana arrest, charge or conviction on their record continue to face.

“This bill builds on the marijuana decriminalization law the Council passed earlier this year,” said  Dr. Malik Burnett, D.C. Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.  “For the thousands of D.C. residents who are suffering the life-altering consequences of having a marijuana possession charge on their record, this legislation should help provide relief.”

Advocates emphasize that D.C. residents have an important opportunity to make further progress by voting YES on Initiative 71 when it appears on the general election ballot on November 4th.

“Initiative 71 will take D.C. another step toward removing marijuana from the criminal justice system and refocusing police priorities on more serious crime,” said Dr. Burnett. “The District has the opportunity to serve as a model for other jurisdictions looking to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system.”

Advocates are encouraged that Councilmembers are continuing to address harms that have been caused by marijuana prohibition, following the passage of legislation earlier this year that decriminalized marijuana possession by eliminating criminal penalties associated with possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and instituting a civil fine issued in a similar manner to a parking ticket.  However, since this decriminalization law took effect on July 17th, statistics from the Metropolitan Police Department, D.C.’s primary law enforcement agency, reveal that 77 percent of all tickets have been written in neighborhoods that are predominantly home to people of color. Advocates point to this finding as a reminder that decriminalization has done little to address the disparities in marijuana enforcement that were the original objective of the legislation.

The Record Sealing for Decriminalized and Legalized Offenses Act of 2014 (Council Bill #20-467) would improve the record sealing process for individuals previously arrested, charged or convicted of an offense that has since been decriminalized or legalized, including records pertaining to marijuana possession. This legislation would speed up government review and decision making on motions to seal criminal records, place important limits on government discretion to deny a record sealing motion, and provide more certainty that a motion to seal certain qualified records will be honored by the government within a certain time frame.

Source: Drug Policy Alliancemake a donation


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Johnny Green


  1. Also of note is the recent retroactive federal drug guidelines. If you were arrested and they lumped on firearm charges after finding your legally (except for the drug felony while having one) owned firearms, you’re still ineligible for it, even if they were locked away in a gun safe.

  2. USpolicestate on

    When marijuana is finally legalized in a few more states, then a few more sweeping like falling dominoes, a major fight will have to be waged to get ameliorative relief legislation passed and retroactive expungement of those that have felony records related to marijuana arrests. Those in prison will have to be released. This will be a hard fight but when marijuana is legalized recreationally in every state, legislators aren’t just going to offer wiping the slate clean on those that carry marijuana related felonies. They will be sore losers that they have lost their marijuana laws and will want punishment to continue for those with criminal marijuana records and they will not want to release those in prison on marijuana convictions. These people that were victims of a tyrannical and oppressive govt will have to be made clean with no social stigma attached that will follow them to their grave.These are issues that should be addressed now as future states legalize marijuana.

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