DC is on a fast track to decriminalizing pot possession

It took nearly 15 years after voters approved medical marijuana for it to become available in the District of Columbia, but the next major change to pot laws in the nation’s capital is on the fast track.

The D.C. Council is poised to approve a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot, and Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray announced last month that he supports it. He could sign the bill into law as early as January.

Some activists want the city to go further by legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana as Colorado and Washington state do, and they’re considering a ballot initiative if the council doesn’t take that step.

It’s a big change from a year ago, when there was no medical marijuana in the capital and elected officials weren’t talking about relaxing recreational pot laws. Now, there are three tightly regulated marijuana dispensaries in the city, although there aren’t many patients yet.

City leaders have long been cautious about pot, in part because Congress has the final say on what’s legal in the district. But with 17 states having some form of decriminalization and the Justice Department taking a hands-off approach to legalization in Colorado and Washington state, city leaders think Congress won’t be interested in fighting that battle…

Anyone want to place any bets about Congressional Republicans tolerating a progressive step in their own backyard?

The new sense of urgency has been fueled in part by two studies released this year that found large racial disparities in marijuana arrests in the city. Blacks were eight times more likely to be arrested than whites in the district in 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union found, and 91 percent of those arrested that year were black. About half of the city’s 632,000 residents are African-American.

And that’s the rest of the reason I wouldn’t be surprised if Congressional Republicans decide to get in the way.

Most Americans don’t realize or recall that the District of Columbia is a Southern city. That means the neo-Confederates in Congress feel they have every right in the world to supervise the lives of Black folks.

I hope I’m wrong. I would love to be wrong. Since Obama’s election, you can’t miss very often by assuming whatever decision would be racist or reactionary, that’s the Republican choice.

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