Marijuana decriminalization bill will get final vote in D.C. Council

WASHINGTON (AP) - The D.C. Council will take a final vote on a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Tuesday's vote will be little more than a formality. The council has already approved decriminalization by an 11-to-1 vote. But before that initial vote, the council watered down the bill by maintaining criminal penalties for smoking pot in public.

The district would join the 17 states that have some form of decriminalization. Councilmember Tommy Wells, the bill's lead sponsor, says the district will have one of the nation's strongest decriminalization policies because the civil fine for possession will be just $25. However, he is concerned that racial disparities will persist among those arrested for smoking.

Mayor Vincent Gray and Police Chief Cathy Lanier supported maintaining criminal penalties for public smoking.