With marijuana possession decriminalized to nothing more than a simple fine if you’re caught with an ounce or less, the lingering questions is: what becomes of those with marijuana charges on their record before the law came into effect?
Under a bill Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced last fall, the criminal records for District residents convicted of non-violent marijuana-related crimes would be sealed. During today’s legislative meeting, Grosso’s bill unanimously passed the first vote on the bill.
“Our criminal justice system has relied on vengeance and punishment,” Gross said during a brief reading of the bill before it came to vote. He explained how this bill is a step in the right direction for expunging the records of those whose lives have been made harder because of a non-violent marijuana-related drug charge. Thus, all those with minor, non-violent marijuana charges on their record can have their court records sealed for good.
The bill applies to “residents with a non-violent misdemeanor or felony possession of marijuana as their only prior criminal history,” according to Grosso’s office. This could apply to 20,000 people arrested over a 10-year period.
Additionally, the Council also voted to approve a bill to permanently change the District’s medical marijuana laws. In August, Mayor Vince Gray quietly signed temporary legislation into law that allows doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients as they see fit, rather than limiting it to a short list of qualifying conditions. The Council voted to make the temporary bill permanent.
Of course, D.C.’s marijuana laws could be radically changed come November, as residents will be able to vote on a ballot initiative—Initiative 71—that would legalize the possession, consumption, and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana.