Washington Decriminalizes Marijuana

Up to an ounce of pot will yield just a $25 civil fine, similar to a parking ticket

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A marijuana leaf is displayed at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Washington, November 27, 2012.

Washington D.C.’s City Council voted Tuesday to decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, scaling back penalties for the drug in the nation’s capital at a time when states are increasingly doing the same despite wariness from the federal government.

Mayor Vincent Gray has publicly supported the measure and is expected to sign it shortly.

Currently, possession of any amount of pot could land a person in jail for up to six months, with a fine of up to $1,000. Tuesday’s measure reduces the maximum penalty to a $25 civil fine, similar to a parking ticket. Smoking pot in public is still a crime under the new legislation after the measure was watered down at the last minute.

Washington, D.C., currently has the highest arrest rate in the country for marijuana possession and 91 percent of arrests for pot in the district are of black people, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

After the 11-to-1 vote, D.C. joins 16 states that have decriminalized possession of the drug, according to the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws.