A republican end-around scheme to derail cannabis decriminalization in Washington DC has seemed to have backfired on the neo-prohibitionist law maker who sponsored a bill to remove funds from DC that it might have spent to carry out the decriminalization effort, creating a situation where cannabis could be technically legal in our nation’s capital.
The DC decriminalization measure established that police can only give $25 dollar tickets (i.e. as opposed to arrest records) to people who are caught possessing small amounts of cannabis in the city. The measure to decriminalize cannabis possession was enacted by the city council to attempt to speak to the fact that treating cannabis possession as a crime in DC resulted in the arrests of great numbers of minorities and very few white people; 9 out of 10 arrestees for cannabis possession in DC were African Americans – a significant statistic due to the fact that the percentage of cannabis users across all races is similar.
The move to stymie the decriminalization measure was made by Andy Harris, a republican representative from Maryland, who appended a rider to a broad financial services bill that prevents DC from spending money “to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with possession use or distribution” of cannabis.
The prohibitionist law maker, however, failed to replace the decriminalization rule, creating a circumstance where police could not ticket cannabis possessors, as this would violate the prohibition of spending monies to “carry out” the decriminalization rule, and DC could not act to re-criminalize cannabis, as doing so would also violate the provisions of the law.
The situation may lead to, as the Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance described it to the DCist news organization, the “de facto legalization” of cannabis possession in the district.
Although the legal catch-22 will certainly be spoken to by Congress with future legislation, as it stands today (technically) the citizens of the District of Columbia may be able to thank Rep. Andy Harris for ensuring that they can’t be profiled or arrested for holding on the hill.