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
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'