Emerson Rensink | The Anti-Media
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Last week, Washington, D.C. became the latest center for drug law reform in the U.S. Currently, 17 states have laws reducing penalties related to marijuana use.
The city’s council approved new legislation, almost unanimously, that would significantly lower the penalty for the possession of marijuana in quantities under an ounce. For possession, a $25 fine would be imposed, a marked improvement from the current $1,000 fine or alternative six-month prison sentence.
Public consumption could still carry a maximum penalty of either $500 or 60 days in jail.
Though the bill was passed by the city council, decriminalization efforts won’t take effect until the city’s mayor, who previously spoke in approval of drug law reform, signs it. Then it must be reviewed and approved by Congress, which will likely prove its most challenging hurdle.
Decriminalization would be a relief particularly for the African American community. According to a 2013 study, police target African Americans for 9 out of 10 arrests related to marijuana in D.C.
The U.S. capital’s actions fly in the face of the UN’s recent assertion that marijuana legalization poses “very grave danger.”
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) sounded the alarm in its annual report released last Tuesday, stating that marijuana legalization efforts in the U.S. and Uruguay would lead to more drug addiction and would not alleviate international drug trafficking.
Despite these concerns, public opinion and law reform continues to tip in favor of decriminalizing drugs and shifting the ways drug use is both viewed and treated.
According to a Washington Post poll, D.C. residents favor marijuana decriminalization by a margin of 2 to 1. Time will tell if Congress approves the measure and whether other cities in the U.S. will follow suit.
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Emerson Rensink writes about social justice, activism and civil liberties. He’s been interviewed by alternative journalist pioneers such as Ben Swann and Dan Dicks for his work as an international co-organizer and media facilitator for the March Against Monsanto in 2013 and for exposing GOP corruption as a Ron Paul delegate in 2012. His work has appeared on WeAreChange.org, the Reason.com blog, PunkRockLibertarians.com and more.
Follow Emerson on Twitter: @emersonrensink