D.C. marijuana decriminalization takes effect Thursday

Marijuana for personal use. (file photo)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- A new law that decriminalizes possession of up to an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana in D.C. takes effect on Thursday.

The law makes possession a civil violation with a penalty of $25, lower than most city parking tickets. Possession had been a misdemeanor carrying up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Police also cannot take action merely because they smell the odor of marijuana under the new law. However, police can still arrest people if they observe people using the drug in public places - like on streets, sidewalks or in a car in a parking area.

Decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana in D.C. is part of a nationwide trend to lessening penalties for marijuana, which the adjoining state of Maryland has already done.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and the District's new law is under review by Congress. A provision authored by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., would undo the D.C. action.