Washington DC set to legalise possession of cannabis and smoking in own home

Mayor expected to pass bill that would make punishment for possession of marijuana no worse than a parking ticket

Politicians in Washington, DC, have voted by an overwhelming majority to decriminalise the possession of marijuana and smoking it in the privacy of your home.

The bill, passed by 10 votes to 1 in the DC Council yesterday, puts the capital in line with 17 states that have taken similar action – but does not go as far as Colorado or Washington state, which have legalised the sale and taxation of the drug.

According to reports in the Washington Post, Mayor Vincent C Gray fully intends to sign the bill through, which would make smoking pot a civil rather than criminal offence.

The new law will mean anyone caught in possession of up to an ounce of cannabis in the city, or found smoking it in a private household, is liable to a fine of $25 (£15).

It puts the severity actually smoking marijuana in public on a similar footing to being caught openly toting from a can of beer – a minor criminal offence punishable by a penalty up to $500 and a six-month jail sentence.

The capital’s bill is seen as a landmark for states looking into decriminalisation, because it is more straightforward and easier to enforce than those of predecessors like California or Massachusetts.

Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the pro-legalisation Drug Policy Alliance, told the Post: “DC will serve as a model for jurisdictions where, for one reason or another, full taxation and legalization is not yet possible.”

Despite this major development in the US capital, there remains a stark contrast between federal laws on marijuana and practical applications across different states.

As far as the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is concerned, marijuana is among the most dangerous drugs, has no medicinal value and is illegal in the US.

It remains unclear how the new law in Washington, DC, would be enforced in areas under federal jurisdiction such as national parks or the Mall.

Testifying before a Congress oversight panel yesterday, deputy DEA administrator Thomas Harrigan said that the easing of laws governing marijuana is a threat US institutions.

“We should not abandon science and fact in favour of public opinion,” Harrigan said. He echoed previous testimony from James Capra, the DEA's chief of operations, who told a Senate panel in January that “going down the path to legalisation in this country is reckless and irresponsible”.

In January, President Barack Obama described cannabis use as “not very different from cigarettes” and no more dangerous than alcohol.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy