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A bill that would legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana as well as regulating its licensure and sale was formally introduced to the D.C. Council on Tuesday by Councilman David Grosso (I-At Large).
As discussed last week, the legislation would remove all penalties for possession of up to two ounces of marijuana by adults 21 and over. It would also authorize the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to license businesses to produce, process and sell marijuana. A 15 percent excise tax would be levied on its sale to go towards substance-abuse prevention programs.
Similar laws were passed in Washington and Colorado in 2012, and they will begin issuing licenses later this year.
The issue has gained attention because of the high rates of arrest for marijuana possession in the District.
Earlier this year, a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana was introduced by Council members Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Marion Barry (Ward 8). The city's first medical marijuana dispensary opened this summer.
"Marijuana prohibition has been a disastrous public policy failure," says Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. "The District has the highest marijuana possession arrest rate in the country, with black residents more than eight times as likely to be arrested than whites, even with similar levels of use. Despite spending millions of dollars to make thousands of arrests and ruin countless lives, marijuana is almost universally available. It’s time for a smarter approach."
If the D.C. Council balks on this proposed legislation, activists plan to put the issue on the ballot as soon as next year.