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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the District of Columbia City Council passed legislation to remove criminal penalties from the possession of marijuana in amounts of one ounce or less. The bill would treat such possession as a civil offense, and awaits approval by Mayor Vincent Gray and then Congress. The vote was 10 to 1 with one abstention.
"This vote is proof: The people of Washington, DC, are tired of living in a city where a Black person is eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, despite similar rates of use," said Seema Sadanandan, Program Director at the ACLU of the Nation's Capital. "This legislation is a victory for racial justice — a crucial step towards eliminating racial profiling in the enforcement of drug laws and the disproportionate punishments suffered by people of color in this city."
Racial justice was at the forefront of the public debate leading up to today's victory, particularly the severe racial disparities in arrests in the District for marijuana possession revealed by The War on Marijuana in Black and White, a report released last June by the ACLU, and findings in Racial Disparities in Arrests in the District of Columbia, 2009-2011, issued in July by the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
Ezekiel Edwards, Director of the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, commented, "With its decriminalization bill, Washington, DC, joins the ever-growing number of cities and states enacting marijuana reform. We look forward to the day when the whole country has rejected marijuana prohibition and the unfair burdens it places on people of color."
Under the Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014 (Council Bill 20-409), police would fine a person $25 for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana, while also requiring forfeiture of the marijuana and any paraphernalia connected to personal consumption or transport.
The ACLU and the ACLU of the Nation's Capital are grateful to Councilmember Tommy Wells and the other city council members for their work on this important bill.
Join the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital for two upcoming theatrical productions, Our Suburb and Arguendo, in which civil liberties take center stage. ACLU staff and board members will participate in panel discussions following select performances of each play.
The world premiere of Our Suburb by Darrah Cloud invites audiences to suburban Illinois in 1977, when the Nazis threatened to rally in Skokie. As two families prepare for Christmas and Hanukkah, two teenagers fall into an interfaith romance, and find themselves absorbed in a growing menace that turns to heartbreak, headlines, and then, magically, new hope, in this whimsical, innovative update of an American classic. The play runs from December 19, 2013 to January 12, 2014 at Theater J.
In March 2014, the Wooly Mammoth Theater will premier Arguendo, bringing a playful physicality and incisive wit to the Supreme Court and the 1991 First Amendment case Barnes vs. Glen Theatre, in which a group of go-go dancers challenged a state ban on public nudity.
ACLU of the Nation’s Capital and Washington Lawyers’ Committee Partner in Efforts to Decriminalize MarijuanaNovember 22, 2013
In D.C. 9 out of 10 drug arrestees are Black, even though only about half of its population is Black and Black and white people use drugs at a comparable rate. Decriminalization of marijuana could help to reduce these disparities. A supermajority of the D.C. Council and the mayor are poised to approve a bill that would decriminalize possession of marijuana and that bill is on the fast track. “The new sense of urgency has been fueled in part by two studies released this year that found large racial disparities in marijuana arrests in the city. Blacks were eight times more likely to be arrested than whites in the district in 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union found, and 91 percent of those arrested that year were black. About half of the city's 632,000 residents are African-American.” - Ben Nuckols of Yahoo News
The “school-to-prison pipeline” refers to the policies and practices that push our nation’s schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. This pipeline reflects the prioritization of incarceration over education.
Are you a studen attending a DC public school who needs help? Contact SRA.
In the wake of the 12th anniversary of the Patriot Act, Stop Watching Us Coalition successfully held the largest protests against mass surveillance in U.S. history.
The ACLU of the Nation's Capital seeks two law fellows for Summer 2014. The summer law fellows at the ACLU gain a comprehensive introduction to the legal work of one of the nation’s major advocacy organizations. Duties include legal and factual research, contact with current and potential clients, drafting of memoranda, pleadings, and motions, and testimony regarding proposed legislation before the Council of the District of Columbia. When possible, law fellows attend trial or appellate proceedings involving staff or volunteer attorneys, as well as depositions, administrative hearings, other related court events, and legislative hearings.
DC Department of Health rules on "body art" shops won't stand up in court, according to an ACLU review sent to the agency October 5.
The ACLU's Seema Sadanandan discusses policing in Black neighborhoods in a recent Washington Post opinion piece.
The War on Marijuana is a War on Equality
When it comes to marijuana arrests, D.C. is one of the worst offenders in the country, with a higher arrest rate, more racially biased arrests and more money spent than almost any other jurisdiction. Aggressive enforcement of marijuana laws does not diminish use or availability, and money could be better spent invested in our communities to enhance public health and safety, drug treatment programs, and police-community relations.