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Washington D.C. Marijuana Investing

D.C. Moves to Decriminalize Marijuana

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted July 15, 2013

As you know, Colorado and Washington are leading the nation when it comes to legalizing marijuana usage. In what is bound to come as a major boost to the emergent marijuana sector, the Washington D.C. City Council stated last week that it will begin considering legislation to decriminalize minor possession of marijuana.

d.c. capitol buildingYahoo! News reports that Councilman Tommy Wells proposed the “Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act,” which would eliminate all criminal penalties for those found in possession of marijuana below an ounce.

A civil fine of up to $100 would apply to those 18 years and older carrying less than an ounce, while those under 18 would be sent to a drug and alcohol awareness program. This is, of course, a drastic change from existing legislation in D.C., under which possession in any amount means up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000.

From Yahoo! News:

"The effort to decriminalize marijuana is about removing barriers for individuals—the impact on their education, and their opportunities for employment," Wells said. "Current legal practices in the District impose a record that sticks with them for life, rather than imposing more sensible civil fines."

This is a change that would be welcomed by all interested in the growing marijuana industry. D.C. already has a troubled relationship with marijuana. According to a recent ACLU report, D.C. saw arrests in 2010 at a rate thrice the national average, with New York coming in second.

Moreover, D.C. spends more money enforcing marijuana possession laws than any other state, with $26.5 million poured into this in 2010 alone. That’s more than $40 per resident. And to top it all off, the ACLU report discloses one damning fact: African Americans in D.C> were found to be 8 times more likely to be arrested for possession compared to Caucasians – an embarrassing figure that’s twice the national average.

The above factors taken together could indicate why D.C. stands to benefit in many ways should this legislation be passed into law. Not only would it create a more open and relaxed business environment for medical marijuana, which is legal, it would also ease a lot of the tension that surrounds present attempts to enforce possession laws.

Besides, as much as 75 percent of D.C.’s voters are in favor of legalization anyway. Should the legislation be approved, D.C. will follow 17 other states in decriminalizing marijuana.

Major Symbolic Shift

It’s also encouraging for would-be marijuana investors and entrepreneurs. While D.C. isn’t going quite as far as Colorado and Washington, where marijuana is starting to be legally regulated, it’s a big step in the right direction.

The symbolic thrust of the nation’s capital choosing to relax marijuana legislation would likely not be lost upon the federal government, which has remained behind the times in this regard. Although state after state is moving toward various forms of marijuana legalization or decriminalization, the federal government continues to wage a war of sorts against marijuana.

This unfriendly state-vs.-federal legislative framework is causing significant trouble for investors who wish to help the sector grow, as well as entrepreneurs who’re trying to develop new businesses in a new industry. Access to financial capital and legal representation, for example, is a major concern for these people—many major banks and lending agencies grow leery when they learn that marijuana is involved, and it’s precisely the problematic federal legislative structure that’s at fault here.

CBS quotes Councilmember David Grosso, who is a co-sponsor of the proposed bill:

“It’s time for us to recognize that marijuana does not do harm,” said Grosso. “It’s not a gateway drug like people think it is. It’s not causing massive accidents or causing people to go crazy on the streets. And it’s just leading a lot of kids right to jail. Until they’re able to purchase this in a regular store and not have any consequences, that’s what it’s going to continue to do.”

Clearly, there is a widespread shift underway in sentiment regarding what was once considered a dangerous “gateway” drug (i.e. that marijuana usage would be the start of a slippery slope that culminates in the abuse of far worse drugs like cocaine or heroin).

Companies like GrowLife, Inc. (OTC: PHOT) and Medical Marijuana Inc. (OTC: MJNA) have already benefited from friendlier legislation in other states. D.C. will undoubtedly see similar benefits in the near future.

 

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