Yesterday, Mayor Vince Gray signed into law a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Grosso was pleased to join Mayor Gray with the Council in signaling his support for ending the racial disparities with regard to marijuana related arrests in the District of Columbia. The repercussions of even misdemeanor marijuana possession charges or convictions are anything but minor, effecting employment, housing, and even federal financial aid. Although passage of this bill was a good first step, Grosso believes that the government must do more to reduce the barriers for those convicted with a marijuana possession charge. Out of concern for the 60,000 D.C. residents with a criminal history whom are unemployed, Grosso introduced the “Record Sealing for Non-Violent Marijuana Possession Act of 2013” last September and urges the Council to pass this important legislation.
The bill requires that criminal records be sealed by the Metropolitan Police Department and D.C. Superior Court for all persons convicted of a non-violent possession of marijuana. The sealing of records will include criminal history of notation of arrests, detentions, indictments, sentencing, correctional supervision, rehabilitation and release. Another provision in the legislation will block employers from asking if an applicant previously had their records expunged or sealed.
“Our city is negatively impacted because of the stigma associated with an individual who has a criminal record,” said Grosso. “As we have seen over many decades with the War on Drugs – society can be unforgiving. Government policies should not create road blocks that deny an individual a second chance. This bill is important because it will create an opportunity for individuals with a non-violent possession of marijuana record to become productive members of society without barriers to becoming gainfully employed.”
The legislation was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Bonds (D-At Large), Bowser (D-Ward 4), Cheh (D-Ward 3), McDuffie (D-Ward5), Alexander (D-Ward 7), Barry (D-Ward 8), and Chairman Mendelson. Councilmember Wells (D-Ward 6), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on this bill in December.