We all know that we aren’t supposed to smoke cannabis in public regardless of its legal status. Realistically, the temptation to light up outdoors on a beautiful day will not be ignored by many stoners. Depending on where you live, the risks vary but it will always result in some form of punishment. Thankfully no one else will ever be arrested for public marijuana use in the U.S. capital. Instead, those that are unlucky enough to evade the police will face a small fine of $25. Police will feel more like they are giving out a parking ticket then capturing some criminal. They will certainly not be going out of there way to cite people with a measly fine. They will likely only cite people who are blatant about their consumption. Catching someone for an arrestable offense always justifies an officers time and effort whether it is for marijuana possession or a serious assault. This policy change strips away the justification for wasting the taxpayers’ money and redirects the polices’ attention to more serious issues.
Before this policy change, officers already had the option to cite instead of arrest someone for public consumption. The change in policy simply mandates a citation instead of leaving it up to the discretion of the officer. The new change will of course not apply to minors or people that have outstanding warrants. This law also won’t apply to the large area of the capital that is considered “federal land”. Cannabis is still illegal on the federal level and violators could face federal penalties for consuming and possessing marijuana. Records have shown that possession arrests have been falling ever since marijuana was legalized in D.C. in 2014. The same can not be said for public consumption arrests. They rose from less than 100 in 2014 to almost 300 the past couple of years. It seems the police are targeting the same group of people in a different but legal way. The policy change put forward this past week is targeting this practice and aims to strengthen relationships between members of the cannabis community and the police force.
I would like to think that before the change was made, officers went with a citation more often than not when someone was caught smoking in a public area. While there is no data on how many people were offered citations over an arrest, the number of arrests were far too high. Nobody gets arrested for drinking in public unless they are being obnoxious or are a danger to themselves and others. Cannabis should be given similar treatment and even more leniency then this harmful substance. This issue does seem like a minor thing to discuss considering many states are still arresting people for possession regardless of where they consume it. However, it is important that the punishment always reflects the crime so that the majority of people respect the law and those who enforce it.