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D.C., Maryland Top The Nation In Rates Of Arrest For Marijuana Possession

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The possession of any amount of marijuana in D.C. is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
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The possession of any amount of marijuana in D.C. is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The rates of arrest for marijuana possession in the District of Columbia and Maryland are amongst the highest in the nation, according to a new report released by the American Civil Liberties Union.

D.C. leads the country with the highest arrest rate, totaling 846 arrests per 100,000 residents.

Maryland is not far behind in fourth place for marijuana arrests (409 per 100,000). The numbers for Maryland were buoyed by areas like Worcester County, which has the highest arrest rate for marijuana possession of any county in the country (2,132 per 100,000).

"Marijuana prohibition is taking a toll on the entire country, but Washington, D.C. and Maryland are among the states paying the biggest price,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project in a press release. "Law enforcement resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes instead of arresting adults for using a substance objectively less harmful than alcohol."

It's an issue that has received attention, but has failed to garner concrete legislation from local lawmakers. D.C. Council members Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) said last month that they hope to introduce a bill this year to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

In Maryland, a provision to remove jail time and lower the fine for possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana passed the state senate, but did not make it through the House of Delegates.

The report also noted a significant racial disparity in the rate of arrests for marijuana possession. Blacks account for 91 percent of marijuana possession arrests in D.C., and were eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white counterparts.

More than a dozen states have eliminated jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

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