The D.C. Council could send a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana to Mayor Vincent Gray as early as January, according to Council member Tommy Wells, who introduced the bill and chaired a committee hearing on the measure on Thursday.
The bill would make possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil offense subject to a fine. Wells said Thursday that he plans to lower the proposed fine from $100 to $25 after listening to the concerns of low-income residents.
Wells hopes to send the bill to the full council in time for a preliminary vote in December and a final vote in January. Nine of Wells' 13 colleagues have signaled their support for the bill, and Gray also supports it.
D.C. Deputy Attorney General for Public Safety Andrew Fois told the committee Gray supports decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana because the drug is not particularly harmful and because arresting people for possession can do significant damage.
However, the mayor does want the city's decriminalization bill to be toughened somewhat, Fois said. He still wants it to be a criminal offense to smoke marijuana on sidewalks, in parks or in other public spaces where children are present. He also said it should be a criminal offense to duck a civil marijuana citation.
Council member David Grosso said decriminalization will increase demand, thus increasing the street business, so he's proposing legalization.