(Reuters) – The District of Columbia stepped closer to decriminalizing marijuana on Wednesday (January 7) when a city council panel approved a measure that would make smoking a joint in the U.S. capital a violation comparable to a parking ticket.
Approved unanimously by the city council’s public safety committee, the bill reduces penalties for possessing less than an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana to a fine as little as $25.
Eight times more blacks than non-blacks in Washington are arrested for pot possession, and committee Chairman Tommy Wells said the measure’s goal was fairness and reducing law enforcement costs.
“This is a social justice bill that addresses disproportionate impact,” said Wells, who is among nine candidates for mayor in the April 1 Democratic primary.
If the full council passes the measure, Washington would join 15 U.S. states and a handful of cities that have decriminalized marijuana use. Wells said the bill could become law before April.