There’s a quiet war currently underway in our nation’s capital between District lawmakers and the legion of Congress over their attempt at sabotaging the voter-approved Initiative 71, which legalized the cultivation and possession of marijuana in the city. Although no one is certain whether the 30-day congressional review will go in favor of the District, there’s one municipal agency that claims marijuana reform is already making their lives easier – the Metropolitan Police Department.
Throughout the recent controversy surrounding the legalization of recreational marijuana as well as a rider attached to the federal budget bill preventing the city from spending money to legalize a controlled substance, it seems that everyone has forgotten that marijuana has been decriminalized in the backyard of the White House for the past six months now.
District Chief of Police Cathy Lanier said in a recent interview with D.C.’s News Channel 8, that decriminalization has made the jobs of police officers “a little bit easier” because they are no longer required to enforce a law that “really never was productive to begin with.”
This is an interesting statement from Lanier, considering that she opposed efforts to decriminalize marijuana last year, voicing concerns over children gaining easier access to weed and the potential clash with federal prohibition laws.
However, by the time the final decriminalization bill was proposed, the only influence Lanier appeared to have was in keeping the public consumption of marijuana an arrestable offense. Otherwise, the law simply decriminalized the possession of an ounce of marijuana or less, a civil infraction that is now punishable with a $25 fine rather than a streetside shakedown and jail.
It was a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, indicating that African Americans were eight times more susceptible to marijuana-related arrests that their white counterparts, which brought on the push to decriminalize marijuana in D.C. Yet, during Lanier’s interview earlier this week, she claimed her department has never really placed much emphasis on the possession of cannabis.
“The average officer for the past 20 years has avoided the possession of marijuana arrest because they’ve not been prosecuted for many, many years,” she said. “I mean, they’re kind of de facto not prosecuted, so it was a waste of time for the officer to make a possession of marijuana arrest, even back when I was an officer.”
Cannabis advocates are pleased with the majority of Lanier’s recent comments, all of those with the exception of her downplaying the fact that her department previously led the nation in marijuana-related arrests, and they hope that law enforcement officials across America can learn from the experience of District police and support measures to decriminalize the herb in their neck of the woods.
Do you think cannabis should be decriminalized everywhere? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments.