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Bill Decriminalizing Marijuana Takes Step Forward In D.C.

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As support for legalizing marijuana grows in D.C., local lawmakers have advanced legislation that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of the drug.

The bill would make the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil fine of $25, less than a parking ticket in most cases. A D.C. Council committee voted unanimously to send the measure to the full Council for consideration.

Under current law, possession of marijuana carries a criminal penalty that carries up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who chairs the committee, says there are "undeniable racial disparities'' in marijuana arrests and that criminal justice reform is needed.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows majority of D.C. residents are on board with not only loosening the penalties for marijuana but legalizing the drug as well. A Washington Post poll finds residents  by nearly a 2 to 1 margin support legalizing pot and supports cuts across all demographic groups according to the survey.

Even if the bill passes the full Council and is signed by Mayor Vincent Gray, activists have also submitted language for a ballot initiative that would fully legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana as well as allowing residents to grow marijuana at home.

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