DC officials scaling back punishment for smoking pot in public

A major change to the way DC police enforce pot laws is now in effect. A new policy in the District is lessening the charges for anyone caught smoking marijuana outside.

DC officials say those caught smoking marijuana outside will receive a citation. Marijuana festivals like the Greenhaus Festival encourage smoking pot in public -- putting such orders to the test.

When initiative 71 passed in 2014, it allowed people in the district to have 2 ounces of marijuana, and give away 1 ounce.
Selling is not allowed, and neither is smoking it in public.

But now, enforcement of that last portion of the law has changed. While it's still illegal to smoke pot in public, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Peter Newsham says arrests for public consumption will now be "noncustodial."

Violators will be given a ticket and must go to a police station for booking within 15 days. After that, they can go to court, or pay a $25 fine.

Pot advocates say it's a step in the right direction, but they're still pushing to change the law itself.

"When the democratic congress hopefully is in power in the next year, they'll have the power to remove the Harris Amendment, which is preventing us from writing more marijuana laws here so we can set up places for people to lawfully use, so we can have tax and regulate, so the city can really benefit from the economic boom of selling cannabis."

Police had the option of giving a citation before, but it wasn't standard procedure.

Be warned, juveniles, people with outstanding warrants, are among those who could still face arrest.