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Today Washington, D.C., begins decriminalization of up to an ounce of marijuana

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Congratulations to the residents of Washington, D.C., for finally having marijuana
decriminalization, effective today, July 17.

This is a huge development, not only for the civil liberties benefits of decriminalizing marijuana — on the important road to legalization — but also as a success for home rule in this city of taxation without voting federal Congressional representation. Efforts unfortunately are underway by some in Congress to block using D.C. government funds to implement its marijuana laws, but even if such efforts are successful, that will not make criminal what now is decriminalized for marijuana in D.C.

Essentially, possessing or distributing (without compensation) up to one ounce of marijuana is now a civil offense carrying a civil fine of $25, so long as the marijuana is not consumed in public and so long as one is not impaired by marijuana outside of one’s own property and endangering the marijuana user, other people, or property. Possessing paraphernalia related to marijuana civil offenses is no longer a crime. The text of the marijuana decriminalization law is here.

The decriminalization law also in-artfully but effectively prohibits searches of people and places where the police suspect nothing more than marijuana-related activity that is no longer criminal under the decriminalization law.

To top off this great news, on October 1, 2014, neighboring Maryland’s marijuana decriminalization law takes effect for possessing under ten grams of marijuana. I am not holding my breath for a similar development in my state of Virginia.