We as the people want what we want…LETS VOTE!!! – ILLA
According to the results of a poll released today, 75 percent of D.C. residents support making the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine, instead of the current penalty of up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
The poll, which was commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance and paid for by Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, which has backed drug decriminalization and legalization measures in a number of states, also found that 64 percent of residents would support decriminalizing the growing of up to three marijuana plants and the same number would go as far as making the possession of marijuana for those over 21 totally legal.
More broadly, 67 percent of residents said that they would like to see police resources spent on crimes other than drug law violations and 54 percent agreed that drug use should be treated as a public health issue, not a criminal one.
The poll lays the groundwork for a possible ballot initiative in 2014 that would let D.C. voters decide on whether or not to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. In 1998, 69 percent of D.C. voters approved a ballot initiative legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes; the program is expected to be functional in the coming weeks.
It also builds pressure on the D.C. Council to follow the lead of other cities that have lessened penalties on the possession of marijuana. Earlier this year, though, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said that he wasn’t sure he was ready to discuss any bills that would decriminalize possession, saying that he feared that Congress would come down on the city as it did after the medical marijuana initiative. (Maryland legislators have debated decriminalization and regulation bills over the past two years, but neither have moved forward. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, did.)
“D.C. voters clearly want to end the failed war on drugs,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Decriminalizing marijuana is a no-brainer, but the Council should do more. There’s an opportunity to make a clean break from the past and treat drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue. More access to treatment and health services. No more putting people in jail.”
According to data released by MPD to D.C. Council candidate Paul Zukerberg, whose entire campaign has revolved around decriminalizing marijuana possession, marijuana-related arrests have steadily ticked up over the last decade. Close to 4,300 people were arrested in D.C. for possession of marijuana in 2011, up from the 2,150 arrested for the same crime a decade prior. Overall, marijuana-related arrests—including possession, distribution, conspiracy to distribute and possession with an intent to distribute—jumped from 3,487 in 2001 to 5,759 in 2011. (That number does not include arrests by the U.S. Park Police, though.)
Zukerberg, a defense attorney that specializes in marijuana cases, is hosting a rally and concert on the National Mall this Saturday—April 20, of course—to push for decriminalization.
Still, for as much as D.C. residents might be ready to decriminalize possession, support for Colorado- and Washington-style ballot initiatives legalizing possession for those over 21, the sale by state-licensed stores and the imposition of taxes on those sales is slightly weaker—only 42 percent of residents said they would strongly support such a broad initiative, while 21 percent would “somewhat” support it and 25 percent would strongly oppose it.
The poll finds that white residents are more likely to support lower penalties for the possession of marijuana—while 69 percent of white residents said they strongly support decriminalization, that number fell to 55 percent among African-Americans and 41 percent among Hispanics. Regardless, residents from across the city generally sided with easing up on small possession charges, though strong opposition is highest in the city’s predominantly African-American wards. Support was highest among men and residents between the ages of 30 and 45.
The poll of 1,621 registered voters was conducted by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, and residents were reached via traditional landline, skewing towards an older demographic—67 percent of respondents were 46 or older. It also asked voters to choose their preference in next Tuesdayt’s At-Large special election.