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?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back