District of Columbia Council member Tommy Wells is proposing fines of $25 and $100 for possessing or smoking marijuana in a bid to decriminalize small amounts of pot.
Wells held a hearing Wednesday on a bill to eliminate criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. Instead, those found with marijuana would face civil fines and seizures of the pot. Wells is proposing a fine of $25 for possessing marijuana and $100 for smoking it.
Currently under D.C. law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense that carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
Wells says the racial disparities in arrests for small amounts of marijuana demand reforms in the criminal justice system.
“So we're not saying it's OK, but we're also not saying that you'll be jailed and have a criminal arrest record for the rest of your life for it,” Wells said.
Mayor Vincent Gray said he supports the bill but, like the council, is not ready to legalize possession.
“The ultimate goal here is not to allow simple possession of marijuana to destroy someone's life,” Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh said.