March 5 - Possessing marijuana in Washington, D.C. could soon be a violation comparable to a $25 parking ticket, after the city council passes a decriminalization bill. Gavino Garay reports.
Having pot on you could soon be a violation similar to a parking ticket in Washington, D.C. A decriminalization bill got approval on Tuesday, making possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil violation. That's a $25 fine -- lower than most city parking tickets. But the bill had mixed reviews. City Councilman Tommy Wells voted for the bill. (SOUNDBITE) (English) D.C. CITY COUNCILMAN TOMMY WELLS, WHO VOTED FOR THE BILL, SAYING: "In D.C., over 90% of those arrested for marijuana are African American. We know with six universities, the black kids are not the only ones smoking pot. And so, first of all, it gets at a social justice issue. And then, once you do have a drug charge, you're not going to get a job on a construction site, you're going to have trouble with a commercial driver's license, a lot of the jobs that are low barrier entry level jobs, you're disqualified if you have a drug charge." While city Councilwoman Yvette Alexander voted against the bill, which fails to decriminalize its sale and use. (SOUNDBITE) (English) D.C. CITY COUNCILWOMAN YVETTE ALEXANDER, WHO VOTED AGAINST THE BILL, SAYING: "If I sell you marijuana, I'm going to jail. If I sell you an ounce of marijuana, I'm going to jail. You're going to get a $25 ticket. If I give you a joint out of my ounce and you smoke it, you're going to jail as well, so it doesn't make sense. I'm the middle man with the ounce of marijuana, and I get a $25 ticket, but someone had to sell it to me, and I assume someone is going to smoke what I have." It will now go to Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray, who supports the bill. As of now, possession of marijuana in Washington, D.C. is considered a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. An exemption is made for those who have permission to use medical marijuana.