On June 7th, the New York Times came out in support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The plan – proposed by Democratic Gov. Cuomo and endorsed by Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg – is in the Times opinion, just “common sense.” Where’s the “common sense” in DC? And where’s the Washington Post?

If both Democrats and Republicans in New York can agree to a common sense approach to small possession cases- reducing possession from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil fine, why can’t DC follow suit? And what if we don’t?

It means that people from New York – and the 15 other states which have decriminalized possession of small quantities of pot – will be eligible for jobs, scholarships and citizenship, which DC residents (and Virginia and Maryland too) will be eligible for arrest, jail and chronic unemployment. A civil fine is not a criminal conviction. Those who are merely fined don’t end up with permanent criminal records. They are not stigmatized.

Decriminalization has been the law in Massachusetts for almost 2 years now. It’s been going fine. Young people there found with small amounts of marijuana are not stigmatized with a criminal conviction.

But in DC, Maryland and Virginia, possession of even a single marijuana cigarette is a serious criminal offense, with all the unpleasant consequences. With that ever change? Sure, but only if the people want it to.

Categories: legalization

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