Citations for marijuana possession largely ignored by D.C. violators

WASHINGTON (WJLA) – The D.C. government has yet to see any money from the tickets issued to people caught with small amounts of marijuana. It’s been nearly a month since possession was decriminalized, but some people caught with the drug are still ending up behind bars.

Finding someone who’s been fined for possession under the District’s new marijuana decriminalization law is difficult, ABC 7 News discovered. But according to Metropolitan Police, from July 17, when the law took effect, through last Wednesday, Aug. 6, police issued 35 of the $25 tickets for possession, and made 30 arrests for smoking pot in a public space, selling or intending to sell, and for possession of more than an ounce.

Of the 35 tickets issued for possession, none of the violators has paid, according to the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings.

Washington City Paper Editor Mike Madden offered to pay tickets for the District’s first five offenders.

“We have gotten none so far—not one,” Madden said, adding that he was a bit surprised.

DC Police Union President Delroy Burton was out of town Monday, but in the past he complained the law was unenforceable, because police aren’t allowed to ask the person being ticketed for ID, and must just accept whatever he or she says.

D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells, who wrote the bill, was unavailable Monday, but ABC 7 News spoke with Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who voted for the law; she says that aspect needs to be changed.

“If we have a ticket, it has to be enforceable, so any law on the books that’s not enforceable is a concern,” she said.

Perhaps the non-paying violators are waiting to see if the law to legalize marijuana—now on the November ballot—passes, and their tickets will be ignored.

The law hasn’t stopped arrests in one Southeast D.C. neighborhood; a man who did not want to be identified said police have no interest in the law.

“They lockin’ us up every way they can,” he said. “I ain’t seen one [ticket] yet. I don’t know not one person that got a ticket.”