Decriminalization Arrives, D.C. Police Prepare 
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Decriminalization Arrives, D.C. Police Prepare 
Posted by CN Staff on July 16, 2014 at 12:35:10 PT
By Mike DeBonis
Source: Washington Post
Washington, D.C. -- On Wednesday, a D.C. cop who catches someone carrying a small amount of marijuana is required to launch his suspect on an onerous journey through the criminal justice system — one likely to involve handcuffs, fingerprinting and forensic analysis.On Thursday, that same cop will face the simpler task of pulling out a ticket book and checking a box: Littering, or possession of marijuana?
A lengthy civic debate over how best to handle the most minor of drug offenses culminates at midnight Wednesday when a marijuana decriminalization law passed by the D.C. Council this spring completes a 60-day congressional review period and takes effect.The advent of the new law, spurred by reports of stark racial disparities in marijuana arrest statistics, means a sea change in how police handle one of the most common violations they encounter. Under new orders set to take effect Thursday, police can no longer take action upon simply smelling the odor of marijuana. Nor can they demand that a person found in possession of up to one ounce produce identification.Those found with larger amounts or caught using marijuana in public places can still be arrested and charged with a crime, but otherwise officers who catch someone carrying weed will be required to simply confiscate any visible contraband and write a ticket carrying a $25 fine.Street cops are likely to be uneasy with the changes, said Delroy Burton, chairman of the D.C. police union, even though the department has circulated a lengthy special order and created a video guide on how to make arrests.Burton criticized the new law as too vague and confusing to officers on the street, and he said those tasked with enforcing it had little input into its formation.“This is not a simple issue,” he said. “It’s about enforcement and decriminalization and where you draw the line of what officers can do and cannot do. Our officers are going to have to go out there and enforce a convoluted mess.”D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier has said in the past that she does not believe the new law will impact officers clearing street corners or confronting suspicious people.In a statement, police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump sought to combat a misconception among District residents that possession and use of marijuana has been legalized. “This is absolutely not true,” the statement said.Among the vagaries of decriminalization is that federal law enforcement agencies such as the U.S. Park Police, Secret Service and Capitol Police may still arrest anyone carrying any amount of marijuana under federal drug statutes. Those offenses would be presented to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District for prosecution.D.C. police, who have historically made the vast majority of marijuana arrests, will abide by the new local law. Civil violations will be adjudicated by the city’s Office of Administrative Hearings, while misdemeanor crimes such as smoking marijuana in public will be prosecuted by the D.C. attorney general. More serious felony drug crimes will remain in the hands of federal prosecutors.Burton said the most confusing part of the new rules concerns when an officer can search or arrest someone on a marijuana charge.The new order says that the odor of marijuana does not constitute a “reasonable articulable suspicion” that the law has been violated. An officer must have evidence that a person has more than one ounce of the drug. And an officer cannot assume a person has a larger amount just because he or she is holding “multiple containers” of the drug.But the order states that none of those restrictions apply to car stops when police are “investigating whether a person is operating or in physical control of a vehicle” while intoxicated or impaired by drugs.Burton said these rules create an almost impossible burden on how an officer approaches and investigates a suspected drug violation. He said it seemingly would mean an officer cannot investigate an odor of marijuana during a car stop for speeding or running a red light. To be safe, he said, officers “are probably going to ignore” possible drug infractions.D.C. police said the department has shared its officer-training materials with prosecutors and the D.C. Housing Authority. That training, the department said, is required for any officer making a marijuana arrest starting Thursday.Civil violation notices that police already hand out for littering have been amended to include possession of marijuana and note the $25 fine. Possession of one ounce of the drug will cost a miscreant less than the fine for throwing a butt on the ground — $75 for littering.Under the new order, an officer is allowed to issue only a warning if he or she “feels it to be in best interest of justice.”While the decriminalization law is certain to take effect Thursday, the long-term prospects for the city’s marijuana laws remain unsettled. Congressional Republicans have sought to intervene, adding language meant to overturn the new law to a spending bill that is expected to pass the House on Wednesday. But Democrats are unlikely to go along in budget negotiations, which in any case could be months down the road.Meanwhile, advocates for the outright legalization of marijuana are seeking to have D.C. residents vote on the question in November — and, according to recent polling, their initiative is likely to be successful should it qualify for the The department has prepared wallet-size cards laying out key facts about the new law, and information will also be posted starting Thursday at: DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Mike DeBonisPublished: July 16, 2014Copyright: 2014 Washington Post CompanyContact: letters Website: URL:  -- Cannabis  Archives 
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Comment #9 posted by Hope on July 18, 2014 at 22:24:06 PT
Obviously, a big hunk of the loaf is better than
no loaf at all.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by FoM on July 18, 2014 at 04:43:44 PT
Thank you for telling us. Decrim is not the perfect solution but it can save a person from getting a record and really messing up their life.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by kaptinemo on July 17, 2014 at 15:21:56 PT:
And who will they beat up on *now*?
And they can't get you by telling you to turn out your pockets, like they do in New York City.Now the police can concentrate on real criminals. You know, the kind that shoot back.
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Comment #6 posted by Canis420 on July 17, 2014 at 13:18:22 PT:
Ohio Decrim
I am thankful for Ohio's decrim as I was caught twice with Cannabis when I lived my first 25 years in Ohio. Both times were in the metropark system that rings Lake and Cuyahoga counties. The first time was in 77 when I was 18 and the second time was a few years later. Even though they caught me in the process of smoking they gave me a ticket and let me get into my vehicle and drive away with no thought that I was impaired behind the wheel. I have no record now. I was out $200 and the little bit of product I had on my person but was not saddled with a crime which I am very thankful for. I now live in Florida and am much more careful.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by FoM on July 17, 2014 at 10:01:18 PT
The way I look at it is Ohio has had decrim on the books since the 70s. It has worked well. You don't get a record just a fine like a traffic ticket. The police look for hard drugs like Meth labs and people selling pills or Heroin. You just don't see marijuana in a police log.
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Comment #4 posted by Hope on July 17, 2014 at 09:53:03 PT
I don't like this part...
"Officers who catch someone carrying weed will be required to simply confiscate any visible contraband".So... no... it certainly is not legal. It needs to be legal. Stop with the persecution! Completely!I don't like the ticket either. But this is, no doubt, a vast improvement over what's been happening, so, I'm actually very thankful for at least that. Preserve the future of our people, of any color, and don't purposely destroy it over an herb. For heaven's sake.Go, DC!
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Comment #3 posted by afterburner on July 17, 2014 at 08:07:45 PT
Click the Link & then Click 'Watch Again' 
Dr. Kevin Sabet vs. Judge James P. Gray.Resolved: “Legalizing marijuana saves money and lives.”Wednesday, July 16th at 12:45pm ET | Colorado School of Mines | Golden, Colorado (Foundation for Economic Education).
Not a cash fee, watch for FREE.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on July 17, 2014 at 08:07:34 PT
decrim results
Here in Mass. the decrim law has been a huge success since 2008. Youth usage of MJ has actually decreased. The backlog in the juvenile courts has gone up in smoke - juvenile court cases are down something like 75%.  We've gone from 10,000+ damaging MJ arrests per year to less than 1,000. Police can't search homes or vehicles based on the odor of MJ alone.And DC will likely be voting on legalization soon! Congrats to everyone in DC who worked on this effort.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on July 16, 2014 at 12:41:18 PT
I Love This Excerpt
Civil violation notices that police already hand out for littering have been amended to include possession of marijuana and note the $25 fine. Possession of one ounce of the drug will cost a miscreant less than the fine for throwing a butt on the ground — $75 for littering.
[ Post Comment ]

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