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criminal justice

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Grosso champions greater access to D.C.’s medical marijuana program

For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso champions greater access to D.C.’s medical marijuana program

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today introduced legislation that would further improve access to the District of Columbia’s medical marijuana program for residents as another method of reducing opioid-related deaths.

“We are all concerned with the ongoing tragedy of D.C. residents dying from opioid overdoses and this legislation provides another tool to address that crisis: greater access to the District’s medical marijuana program,” said Grosso.

Since 2014, over 800 people have died as result of opioid-related overdoses, according to the D.C. Chief Medical Examiner. Two hundred and seventy-nine of those deaths were reported in 2017 alone, more than triple those reported in 2014.

Under the Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019 patients would be granted provisional registration and same-day access to medical marijuana like any other medicine.

Additionally, dispensaries would be allowed to establish safe use facilities so that patients can consume medical marijuana outside of their home, which would address the challenge that many patients face of having nowhere to consume.

Finally, the legislation also removes the plant count limit on cultivation centers to address ongoing supply issues and seeks to rectify negative impacts of the racist War on Drugs by allowing more residents affected by the misguided criminalization of marijuana to be employed in these businesses.

“Medical marijuana has been shown to be a viable alternative to the prescription of opioid painkillers, which can set people down the path to addiction,” Grosso said. “While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program here in D.C., we can do more to improve access for patients and reduce opioid reliance and overdose.”

A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that medical marijuana programs reduce opioid overdose death rates by as much as 25 percent. Americans for Safe Access also reported lower prescription rates of painkillers in states with medical marijuana programs.

Grosso also views the legislation as an appropriate response the negative effects of congressional interference with D.C.’s local efforts to regulate marijuana.

“D.C. residents are being diverted from the medical marijuana program to the unregulated, easy to access, underground market,” Grosso said. “That is posing real problems for the small business owners in the medical marijuana community, and our whole medical marijuana system could be in jeopardy if we don’t take action.”

Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Brianne Nadeau joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019

Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 22, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Brianne K. Nadeau

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998 to authorize the dispensation of medical marijuana to and use by qualifying patients over the age of 21 at safe-use facilities, to allow qualifying patients, upon application to the Mayor for a medical marijuana registration identification card, to immediately purchase medical marijuana on a provisional basis, subject to the approval or rejection of a registration application, to eliminate the limit on the number of marijuana plants that cultivation centers are permitted to grow, and to allow for the delivery of medical marijuana to qualified patients.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today I am introducing the Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019.

We are all concerned with the ongoing tragedy of D.C. residents dying from opioid overdoses—this bill is another part of the effort to stop that crisis.

Research shows that states with robust medical marijuana programs have lower rates of opioid overdose deaths.

While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program over the past few years, there is more we can do to expand access for patients, and bring more people into the regulated market.

This bill would allow for same day access to medical marijuana just like any other medicine by allowing for a provisional registration when a patient submits their paperwork to the Department of Health.

The bill would allow dispensaries to establish safe use facilities so that patients can consume medical marijuana outside of their home, which would address the challenge that many patients face of having nowhere to consume.

There are a number of other improvements to the program as well, such as removing the plant count limit, and allowing more residents affected by the war on drugs to be employed in these businesses.

Improving access makes sense when we are in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis, but it also is an appropriate response to the challenges we face as a result of congressional interference with our local efforts to regulate marijuana.

Due to Representative Harris’ rider on our budget, residents are being diverted from the medical marijuana program to the unregulated, easy to access, underground market.

That is posing real problems for the small business owners in the medical marijuana community, and our whole medical marijuana system could be in jeopardy if we don’t take action.

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Grosso re-introduces bill to modernize sealing of criminal records

For Immediate Release:
January 8, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso re-introduces bill to modernize sealing of criminal records

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David Grosso re-introduced legislation that would overhaul the way that the District of Columbia handles records of arrests, charges, and convictions in D.C. to support reintegrating people with such records into the community.

“We have begun to move away from using criminal penalties as the solution to social issues, we are seeking to undo the discriminatory policies of the War on Drugs, and we are seeking to support people who go to jail or prison to be successful upon their return to the community,” Grosso said. “One significant barrier to successful reentry is a criminal record.”

The Record Sealing and Modernization Amendment Act of 2019 establishes a process for expungement of records, qualifies certain records for expungement, and allows for automatic expungement or sealing of records in certain cases. Additionally, it expands the number offenses eligible for sealing to include all misdemeanors and most felonies and allows for sealing of multiple convictions (FACT SHEET).

A report from the Center for Court Excellence released in 2016 noted that the burden of criminal records falls almost exclusively on black residents—96% of people sentenced to prison in D.C. are black.

That same report called on the Council to reform the criminal records sealing process.

“It is time for us to recognize that making criminal records available does little to improve public safety and directly harms the individuals concerned, in fact hampering their ability to leave behind involvement in criminal activity,” said Grosso. “The negative impacts of criminal records harm tens of thousands of residents of our city, as do the decades of discriminatory criminal justice policies and practices, disproportionately affecting African Americans. We have an obligation to confront it and seek bold remedies.”

Research published by the Urban Institute last year found criminal record was a direct barrier to gaining employment, even as having a job is the most important factor in helping returning citizens to avoid recidivism.

Nationally, there is a bipartisan policy trend that acknowledges the unfair premise of visible criminal records and the relationship between criminal records and recidivism. In the past several years, 21 states have passed laws that expand opportunities for sealing or expunging records.

“This bill would put us at the forefront of restoring people after an arrest and trial or the conclusion of a criminal sentence,” Grosso said.

Originally introduced in 2017, Grosso’s bill received a hearing along with similar proposals introduced by the mayor and other councilmembers.

"I was extremely encouraged by the broad agreement heard at the 2017 hearing that improvements can be made to the way D.C. handles the sealing of criminal records,” Grosso said. “It demonstrated the strong will within both branches to move forward with reforms that will remove barriers to successful reentry for our residents with criminal records.”

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds, and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White joined Grosso as co-introducers.

“It is my hope that the Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2019 can help fulfill the promise to returning citizens—or even people who are arrested and nothing ever comes of it—that we support them and will not judge them forever for past mistakes,” Grosso said.

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Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2019

Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 8, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, and Trayon White

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend Chapter 8 of Title 16 to establish a process for expungement of records and qualify certain records for expungement, allow for automatic expungement or sealing of records in certain cases, expand the number offenses eligible for sealing to include all misdemeanors and most felonies and establish procedures for such, and allow for sealing of multiple convictions.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Additionally today, along with Councilmembers Charles Allen, Kenyan McDuffie, Anita Bonds, and Trayon White, I am introducing the Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2019.

This legislation would overhaul the way that we handle records of arrests, charges and convictions in the District of Columbia to support reintegration of people with such records into the community.

At this point there is broad consensus that our criminal justice system has been dysfunctional for too long, resulting in too many arrests and convictions, with racist consequences.

We have begun to move away from using criminal penalties as the solution to social issues, we are seeking to undo the discriminatory policies of the war on drugs, and we are seeking to support people who go to jail or prison to be successful upon their return to the community.

One significant barrier to successful reentry is public access to criminal records.

It is time for us to recognize that making criminal records available does little to improve public safety and directly harms the individuals concerned, in fact hampering their ability to leave behind involvement in criminal activity.

A report from the Center for Court Excellence in 2016 year noted that the burden of criminal records falls almost exclusively on our black neighbors—96% of people sentenced to prison in D.C. are black.

That same report called on the Council to reform the criminal records sealing process.

Research published by the Urban Institute more recently showed how a criminal record is a direct barrier to gaining employment, even as having a job is the most important factor in helping returning citizens to avoid recidivism.

Nationally, there is a bipartisan policy trend that acknowledges the unfair premise of visible criminal records and the relationship between criminal records and recidivism.

In the past several years, 21 states have passed laws that expand opportunities for sealing or expunging records.

In preparing this legislation, I heard from constituents who didn’t understand why it can be so easy to seal records for some minor incidents next door in Maryland but so hard here in the District of Columbia.

This bill would put us at the forefront of restoring people after an arrest and trial or the conclusion of a criminal sentence.

I was pleased to write and pass legislation a few years ago to allow individuals to seal their arrest or conviction records for marijuana violations, but as I learned how hard it is for people to actually seal their records under our current system, I felt that the promise of that bill was not fulfilled.

It is my hope that the Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2019 can help fulfill the promise to returning citizens—or even people who are arrested and nothing ever comes of it—that we support them and will not judge them forever for past mistakes.

I welcome my colleagues to join as cosponsors of this legislation.

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Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on Police Incident Outside Nook’s Barbershop

For Immediate Release: 
June 26, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on Police Incident Outside Nook’s Barbershop

Washington, D.C. –The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the incident that occurred at Nook’s Barbershop in Deanwood on June 13, 2018:

“The police-initiated incident at Nook’s Barbershop is emblematic of an approach to policing that has led to a lack of trust between our police and the neighborhoods they serve. More police and aggressive, questionable tactics have all been tried before and yet violence persists. There is a better way.

“As I have said before, I remain committed to a different approach to public safety, one that would see a transformation of the Metropolitan Police Department into an agency whose highest priorities include promoting non-violence and collaborating meaningfully with our communities and neighborhoods. It would be about recognizing that people in the community should be leaders in creating a safer environment, with support of the police, not the other way around.

“The community deserves answers. I look forward to the completion of an investigation with the findings being made public as soon as possible.”
 

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DOC responds to Grosso letter on treatment of transgender inmates, educational services for detained students

On February 6, 2018, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to Department of Corrections Director Quincy Booth, in light of the cancellation of the additional oversight hearing that the Committee on the Judiciary had called and the fact that Councilmember Grosso would be unable to attend the DOC Performance Oversight Hearing. The questions focused on three topics:

  • DOC policies/practices for housing transgender inmates;
  • volunteering at DOC;
  •  and education-related matters.

On March 13, Director Booth sent a response letter that highlighted some areas of concern but also some progress.

In 2017, there were 48 inmates identified as transgender. The housing process seems to be going as contemplated when it was changed around 2008, with two exceptions: transgender inmates are “provided standard jail attire and privileges consistent with the gender of their housing assignment” which is an issue because most transgender women are housed in the men’s unit (based on their own request)—they should get gender-appropriate clothing; and transgender inmates who were on hormone therapy prior to incarceration may be continued—they should be continued barring a medical reason not to, and even if they were not getting it in the community, they should get it in the jail if it's medically appropriate. 

Director Booth also reported out on a Memorandum of Agreement between Department of Correction, D.C. Public Schools, and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, that articulated these agencies respective obligations regarding educational services to students committed to DOC as pretrial detainees and sentenced inmates.  It is based in part on the recommendations by OSSE in its 2016 Letter of Determination regarding state complaints about special education services at DOC.

Both Councilmember Grosso's original letter and DOC's response can be found below.

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Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Health & Safety Amendment Act of 2017

Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Health & Safety Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: October 5, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmember Robert White

FACT SHEET & SECTION BY SECTION | BILL TEXT | RESOURCES & STATISTICSCOALITION CONTACTS | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To repeal an Act for the suppression of prostitution in the District of Columbia; to amend an Act in relation to pandering, to define and prohibit the same and to provide for the Punishment thereof to remove certain criminal penalties for engaging in sex work in order to promote public health and safety; to repeal Section 1 of an Act to enjoin and abate houses of lewdness, assignation, and prostitution, to declare the same to be nuisances, to enjoin the person or persons who conduct or maintain the same and the owner or agent of any building used for such purpose, and to assess a tax against the person maintaining said nuisance and against the building and owner thereof; to repeal An Act to confer concurrent jurisdiction on the police court of the District of Columbia in certain cases; and to create a task force to assess the impact of this legislation and recommend further reforms to improve community safety and health by removing criminal penalties for engaging in commercial sex.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Good morning. I am At-Large D.C. Councilmember David Grosso, and I am pleased to be here with community members and the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition.

As you may know, all my work on the Council is based in the human rights framework.

That commitment includes speaking out for the human rights of the most marginalized communities, including sex workers.

I believe that we as a society are coming to realize that excessive criminalization is causing more harm than good, from school discipline to drug laws to homelessness.

It is time for D.C. to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex—and move from one of criminalization to a focus on human rights, health, and safety.

That is why today I am announcing the introduction of the Reducing Criminalization to Improve Health and Safety Amendment Act of 2017.

I developed this legislation in close partnership with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition, and the bill is in line with recommendations from Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, U.N. AIDS, Human Rights Watch, and numerous other expert organizations.

The bill is quite simple really—it repeals a number of laws, or parts of laws, that criminalize adults for exchanging sex for money or other things of value.

By removing criminal penalties for those in the sex trade, we can bring people out of the shadows, help them live safer and healthier lives, and more easily tackle the complaints we hear from communities about trash or noise.

Some of the laws that this bill would repeal are over a hundred years old, showing how the criminalization approach has been a total failure.

There is plenty of other evidence that this approach puts people at risk for violence, inhibits the fight against HIV, and results in the exact opposite of what the laws purported intentions, but I will leave that to my fellow speakers to describe in greater detail.

The bill does not change any of our laws regarding coercion or exploitation, which will continue to be prohibited. Nor does it change how minors involved in sex trade are considered.

Sex workers themselves are often some of the best-positioned people to identify and help people in situations of exploitation, and by removing the criminal sanctions on them, we can improve our efforts on that front.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me work on this legislation and I also want to appreciate all the sex worker activists who have spoken out for their human rights, from Sharmus Outlaw here in D.C., to Gabriela Leite in Brazil, to countless others around the world.

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Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2017

Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: September 19, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Kenyan McDuffie, and Trayon White

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend Chapter 8 of Title 16 to establish a process for expungement of records and qualify certain records for expungement, allow for automatic expungement or sealing of records in certain cases, expand the number offenses eligible for sealing to include all misdemeanors and most felonies and establish procedures for such, and allow for sealing of multiple convictions.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

I am introducing the Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2017.

This legislation would overhaul the way that we handle records of arrests, charges and convictions in the District of Columbia to support reintegration of people with such records into the community.

At this point there is broad consensus that our criminal justice system has been dysfunctional for too long, resulting in too many arrests and convictions, with racist consequences.

We have begun to move away from using criminal penalties as the solution to social issues, we are seeking to undo the discriminatory policies of the war on drugs, and we are seeking to support people who go to jail or prison to be successful upon their return to the community.

One significant barrier to successful reentry is public access to criminal records.

It is time for us to recognize that making criminal records available does little to improve public safety and directly harms the individuals concerned, in fact hampering their ability to leave behind involvement in criminal activity.

A report from the Center for Court Excellence released last year noted that the burden of criminal records falls almost exclusively on our black neighbors—96% of people sentenced to prison in D.C. are black.

That same report called on the Council to reform the criminal records sealing process.

Research published by the Urban Institute this year showed how a criminal record was a direct barrier to gaining employment, even as having a job is the most important factor in helping returning citizens to avoid recidivism.

Nationally, there is a bipartisan policy trend that acknowledges the unfair premise of visible criminal records and the relationship between criminal records and recidivism.

In the past four years, 21 states have passed laws that expand opportunities for sealing or expunging records.

In preparing this legislation, I heard from constituents who didn’t understand why it can be so easy to seal records for some minor incidents next door in Maryland but so hard here in the District.

This bill would put us at the forefront of restoring people after an arrest or the conclusion of a criminal sentence.

It would create a process of expungement, completely removing some records from the system, such as for arrests that don’t result in a charge.

It would allow an individual to seal more than one record, and would greatly expand the records eligible for sealing.

The bill would make sealing automatic for a number of misdemeanor convictions, which would reduce the burden on the Superior Court as well as on the individual seeking relief.

I was pleased to write and pass legislation a few years ago to allow individuals to seal their arrest or conviction records for marijuana violations, but as I learned how hard it is for people to actually seal their records under our current system, I felt that the promise of that bill was not fulfilled.

It is my hope that the Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2017 can help fulfill the promise to returning citizens—or even people who are arrested and nothing ever comes of it—that we support them and will not judge them forever for mistakes of their past.

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Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017

Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: September 19, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Robert White, Brianne K. Nadeau

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998 to increase access to the program by qualified patients by establishing same-day registration and allowing patients to qualify without a doctor’s referral and delivery to patients, establish safe-use treatment facilities to allow consumption outside of the home, allow dispensaries and cultivation centers to relocate and expand operations to meet patient demand, and amend requirements for licensees.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

I am introducing the Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017, and I thank Councilmembers Gray, Nadeau, and Robert White for joining me as co-introducers.

This legislation, along with the previous bill, will further bolster our responses to the opioid crisis.

Research shows that states with robust medical marijuana programs have lower rates of opioid overdose deaths.

While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program over the past few years, there is more we can do to expand access for patients, and bring more people into the regulated market.

This bill would allow for same day access to medical marijuana just like any other medicine by allowing for a provisional registration when a patient submits their paperwork to the Department of Health.

It would also allow patients who may not have a primary care provider, or whose doctor does not want to recommend medical marijuana, to self-certify that they are seeking medical cannabis.

The bill would allow dispensaries to establish safe use facilities so that patients can consume medical marijuana outside of their home, which would address the challenge that many patients face of having nowhere to consume.

There are a number of other improvements to the program included as well, such as requiring that employees or owners of medical marijuana businesses be D.C. residents, removing the plant count limit, and allowing more residents affected by the war on drugs to be employed in these businesses.

Improving access makes sense when we are in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis, but it also is an appropriate response to the challenges we face as a result of congressional interference with our local efforts to regulate marijuana.

Due to Representative Harris’ rider on our budget, residents are being diverted from the medical marijuana program to the unregulated, easy to access, underground market.

That is posing real problems for the small business owners in the medical marijuana community, and our whole medical marijuana system could be in jeopardy if we don’t take action.
 

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Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act of 2017

Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: September 19, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmember Vincent Gray

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend Title 25 of the D.C. Official Code to remove possession of certain drug paraphernalia for personal use as a grounds for denial of a license; to amend Title 47 of the D.C. Official Code to remove possession of certain drug paraphernalia for personal use as a grounds for denial of a license; to amend the District of Columbia Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1981 to remove penalties for possession of certain drug paraphernalia for personal use; to amend the Drug Paraphernalia Act of 1982 to allow possession of certain drug paraphernalia for personal use; and to amend the District of Columbia Appropriations Act of 2001 to remove the prohibition on the operation of needle exchange programs in certain areas of the District.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

I wrote this legislation, along with a bill I will introduce next to improve our medical marijuana program, as a response to the opioid crisis that we face in D.C., much like the rest of the country. 

Last year, we recorded 216 opioid-related deaths, nearly triple the number in 2014.

Meanwhile, we continue to face an HIV epidemic, even as our evidence-based needle exchange programs have dramatically reduced new infections since we were freed from Congress’ prohibition of these life-saving activities. 

This bill takes the next step in those efforts by allowing people to possess drug paraphernalia for personal use.

This is most important for improving access to clean syringes to prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, but there is also new technology that can save lives in other ways.

Drug testing kits allow people who are using heroin to test the strength of their drugs to avoid overdose, including detecting the presence of fentanyl or carfentanil, the opioids largely responsible for the increase in overdoses.

But these kits would be prohibited as drug paraphernalia under current law.

The Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act also repeals a congressionally imposed law from years ago that severely restricts the geographical area in which our needle exchange programs can operate.

That law, like so much that Congress forces on us, was not based on any scientific evidence. To the contrary, research shows that the law limits the efficacy of our harm reduction efforts.

We need to consider every evidence-based approach that might help us roll back the tide of overdoses, while also continuing our important progress stopping the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. 

To that end, today I also sent a letter to Department of Health Director Dr. Nesbitt asking her to examine how D.C. could establish supervised injection sites, where injection drug users could be monitored to prevent overdoses and be connected to treatment.

I hope that Dr. Nesbitt and her team will find a way forward, and that she will also make the overdose prevention medication Narcan more available to our constituents, including by issuing a standing order to allow people to get Narcan over the counter at any pharmacy in the District. 

September is Pain Awareness Month and Overdose Awareness Day just passed on August 31, reminding us of the urgency we must have in our response to these issues. 


 

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Grosso proposes bills to deal with opioid crisis, improve public health as Council returns from summer recess

For Immediate Release:
September 19, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso proposes bills to deal with opioid crisis, improve public health as Council returns from summer recess

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced two bills to address the opioid crisis in the District of Columbia.

“For decades we have attempted to use criminal penalties to solve drug addiction and its associated consequences,” Grosso said.  “This ‘War on Drugs’ has failed and in recent years, D.C. has adopted a public health and evidence-based approach to reduce harm and help people find appropriate treatment.  My proposals continue that approach.”

Last year, D.C. reported 216 opioid-related deaths—nearly triple the number reported in 2014. Grosso’s proposals would remove penalties for possession of certain drug paraphernalia and promote access to the medical marijuana program, both of which have been shown to reduce overdoses.

The Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act of 2017, allows for access to new technology that enables drug users to test their own drugs to avoid overdosing and supports harm reduction efforts for injection drug use by improving access to clean syringes to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

The bill achieves this greater access by removing criminal penalties for possession for personal use of syringes and drug testing kits, and expanding the areas in which D.C.’s successful needle exchange program can operate.

“There is no scientific basis for criminalizing paraphernalia possession,” Grosso said. “It only increases the likelihood of harm to those who are struggling with addiction and continues the failed policies of the War on Drugs that has had a disproportionate impact on our African-American communities.”

Councilmember Vincent Gray joined Grosso in co-introducing this bill. Grosso joined Gray in co-introducing two other opioid focused bills: Opioid Abuse Treatment Act of 2017 and the Opioid Overdose Prevention Act of 2017.

The Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017 reduces two major barriers to the city’s medical marijuana program: the requirement for a doctor referral and long wait times to get a registration card.

Under the bill, patients would be granted provisional registration and same-day access to medical marijuana like any other medicine. Patients without a primary care physician, or with one who does not wish to recommend medical marijuana, would be able to self-certify.

“Medical marijuana has been shown to be a viable alternative to the prescription of opioid painkillers, which can set people down the path to addiction,” Grosso said. “While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program here in D.C., there is more we can do to improve access for patients and reduce opioid reliance and overdose.”

A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that medical marijuana programs reduce opioid overdose death rates by as much as 25 percent.  Americans for Safe Access also reported lower prescription rates of painkillers in states with medical marijuana programs.

Grosso believes D.C. can go even further to combat the opioid crisis.  In a letter sent to Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt today, the councilmember asked her to examine how D.C. might set up supervised injection sites where injection drug users could be monitored to prevent overdose and be connected to treatment.  He also believes DOH should find a way to allow Narcan, the opioid overdose prevention medication, to be obtained over-the-counter at any pharmacy in the District of Columbia.

“I hope that Dr. Nesbitt and her team will find a way forward,” Grosso said.

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It’s time for real change to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse heal

For Immediate Release: 
June 15, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

It’s time for real change to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse heal

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing on two laws to eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations on sexual abuse. Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), a member of the committee and author of the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act released the following statement:

“I believe there are few actions more depraved than sexual violence against children. Full of boundless curiosity, bold imagination, and care-free spirits, the unique innocence of childhood is something to marvel.

“Unfortunately 1 in 10 children will be stripped of this innocence before their 18th birthday.  Alarmingly, children are most vulnerable to sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13. Because children have no comprehension of adult sexual behaviors and activity, any exposure to these aspects of adult life can and often does result in mental and emotional trauma.

“The experience of sexual violence as a child is one that endures for ages.  Most survivors do not come forward until well into adulthood, suffering for years with depression, feelings of guilt and sometimes difficulty forming intimate relationships. 

“My legislation eliminates the civil statute of limitations for recovery of damages arising out of child sex abuse claims.  Additionally, the bill creates a two-year window for individuals whose claims of child sex abuse were previously time-barred, enabling victims to go back in time and begin working to heal.

“Child safety depends on legislators holding institutions, not just individual perpetrators, accountable for their actions.  We cannot continue to allow individuals or institutions to maintain their depraved secrets. We must instead encourage and empower victims to come forward and know that a fair and just system is in place to help them right unspeakable wrongs.

“Given the passage of time, the evolution of this body and society as a whole on this issue, it is my sincere hope that we can affect real change for victims by enacting these critical measures to enhance their legal recourse.

“I want to thank everyone who testified today, especially those who are survivors of such crimes.  Your bravery today will help those like you who have endured so much and seek justice for their anguish.

“I also want to thank Chairperson Charles Allen for holding a hearing on these two critical measures.  I look forward to working together with him to advance them to the full Council.”

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Committed to a different approach to public safety, Grosso votes against Newsham nomination to be Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department

For Immediate Release: 
April 6, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Committed to a different approach to public safety, Grosso votes against Newsham nomination to be Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso on his opposition to the nomination of Peter Newsham to serve as the permanent chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD):

“Over the past month, the Committee on the Judiciary held three hearings on Newsham’s nomination. In addition to those who testified, I heard from numerous constituents via phone, email, and social media about this decision, and I am thankful to all of them for their engagement on an issue as important as this.

“As I thought about what it means to pick a new chief of police, I heard the praise and the criticism for the nominee. I take both of those very seriously.

“But, I also came to realize that I have a different vision in mind—that this vote is an opportunity to imagine what kind of police department we want to have, and what kind of leader will move us toward that goal.

“There are competing visions about the role of the police in our society, as well as different perspectives about what public safety means. I have seen it in my work as Chairperson of the Committee on Education, as we move away from “zero tolerance” approaches to school discipline, and instead implement restorative justice practices in our schools. We have seen a shift on the Council and among residents with the move away from criminalizing drugs, to removing criminal penalties and focusing on addiction and treatment services as the appropriate response.

“I feel strongly that it is time for a similar overhaul in our approach to policing—a transformation of the MPD into an agency whose highest priorities include promoting non-violence and collaborating deeply with the community and neighborhoods.

“Such a transformation would mean a department would have a spotless track record of internal accountability, and a culture of intervention by officers when they see a colleague doing something wrong. It would be about recognizing that people in the community should be leaders in creating a safer environment, with support of the police, not the other way around.

“A shift like this would require police leadership to see that there are very deep-seated problems with how law enforcement operates in this city, and rising to the challenge of changing the paradigm.

“To be sure, this kind of change would require hard work by the entire city, but the leadership of the MPD is vitally important.

“Leadership was the focus of a number of the witnesses during the hearings, and as an elected official, the meaning of leadership is constantly on my mind, especially in the new national political climate. At a time when the leaders in the highest ranks of the government openly espouse bigotry, flout the rule of law, and disrespect human rights, I believe we need to go the extra mile to counteract those messages and actions.

“Maybe my expectations are too high, but based on some of the feedback I have heard, our constituents are hungering for a chief of police who is visionary and transformative, and can think outside of the box.

“Unfortunately, I do not believe that this nominee fits that profile.

“I remain committed to a very different vision of what policing and public safety can be, and I am committed to working with the new chief to promote these values, and the values that we heard from so many witnesses during this process around police accountability, bolstering our sanctuary city policies, promoting non-violence, decreasing arrests, and ending the perception that more police will solve our problems.”

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Grosso urges President Obama to grant clemency to D.C. offenders

 

For Immediate Release: 

November 23, 2016
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105
mnocella@dccouncil.us

 

Grosso urges President Obama to grant clemency to D.C. offenders

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso sent a letter today to the President of the United States asking him to grant clemency to individuals who fit the requirements of his broad clemency initiatives that have been convicted of offenses under the D.C. Code. The following is his statement:

“President Obama deserves praise for the impressive work he’s done to combat the harms perpetrated as part of the inequitable War on Drugs by providing a second chance to over 1,000 non-violent drug offenders.

“In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I sent a letter urging him to take D.C. Code offenders into special consideration in his final two months before an administration takes over that is unlikely to continue such an initiative.   

“As president of the United States, he is uniquely situated as the sole source of relief for those convicted of such crimes under the local laws of the District of Columbia.  Due to D.C.’s continued second-class status, our mayor has no such authority similar to chief executives in other jurisdictions.  D.C. has made progress recently to end ill-informed policies that put too many people in prison.  However, we are unable to repair the damage they have already done.

“My staff and I stand ready to assist in this effort and further this cause in any way we can.  I will continue to look for ways to reform the criminal justice system in the District of Columbia as I enter my second term representing all residents on the Council.”

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Grosso's position on the “Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2016”

Councilmember Grosso recorded a quick video update on his decision to oppose the “Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2016”--you can read more about his position after the jump.

This legislation amends the Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014 to clarify that the prohibition of consumption of marijuana in a public space also includes private clubs. It also requires the Mayor to revoke any license, certificate of occupancy, or permit held by an entity that knowingly permits a violation of law concerning the consumption of marijuana in a public space.

I have been a strong proponent of marijuana decriminalization, legalization and regulation in D.C. since I became a member of the Council in 2013. I co-introduced the decriminalization law and actively supported the passage of Initiative 71. But I also introduced measures in 2013 and 2015 to tax and regulate the sale of retail marijuana in D.C. as I strongly believe that it is important for us to setup an equitable system governed by clear rules and regulations if we are truly to limit arrests and dissolve the underground market. As you may know, D.C. is currently under a congressional rider which prohibits the Council and Mayor on moving forward on any measures to tax and/or regulate the legal sale of retail marijuana. I strongly oppose Congressional leadership interfering with D.C.’s ability to govern itself and believe that at times it’s appropriate for us to defy Congress and do what’s right for D.C. residents.

I opposed this legislation because I believe it was a step toward doing just that. My interest in marijuana decriminalization and legalization laws has always been about social justice and ending the arrests and racial disparity in terms of enforcement. In the absences of available venues outside of a private residence for individuals to consume marijuana products legally, the disparity will continue. Further, this matter is currently being debated in the Committee on Judiciary via permanent legislation and I believe the Council should have the opportunity to fully debate before extending this emergency. I believed that my colleagues and I could work together with the Executive to craft an approach to this issue that is measured. Unfortunately, the bill passed today by a vote of 9-4.

I will continue to work on this issue as the full Council prepares to consider this measure at the February 2, 2016 Legislative Meeting. Thank you again for reaching out with your concerns.

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Grosso Introduces Resolution to Declare the Sense of the Council that Congress Must Adopt Comprehensive Gun Control Legislation

For Immediate Release: 
December 15, 2015
Contact: Darby Hickey
(202) 724-8105

Grosso Introduces Resolution Calling on Congress to Adopt Comprehensive Gun Control Legislation

Washington, D.C.--Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced a Sense of the Council resolution calling on Congress to act swiftly and decisively to protect all Americans from further gun violence by enacting sensible and comprehensive gun control measures. The resolution has full Council support with all members joining as co-introducers. In addition, the resolution demands that Congress refrain from adopting legislation that would restrict the District of Columbia government's ability to legislate the regulation of firearms.

"Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre where a gunman tragically murdered 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut. Since then, Congress has failed time and time again to pass gun reform laws," Grosso said. "I introduced this resolution because Congress has a responsibility to protect all Americans. They can demonstrate their commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of all Americans by reforming the woefully inadequate gun laws that currently exist."

Everytown for Gun Safety reports that there have been 161 incidences of school shootings across the nation since 2013.  In the past 349 days of this year, there have been 355 mass shootings in the United States. 

"This is a call to action," said Grosso. "It is time for Congress to adopt practical and comprehensive gun control measures."

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Agencies Improve Policies for Marginalized Residents to get Identity Documents

Earlier this fall, after discussions with advocates and community members, Councilmember Grosso sent letters to the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Human Services out of concern that some policies are unnecessarily creating barriers for residents when they need to access identity documents. In particular, Grosso was concerned about the ability to get identity cards or driver's licenses for D.C. foster youth in placements outside of D.C., homeless residents, returning citizens, and low income residents who may have trouble producing certain documents or paying certain fees. 

In response to Grosso's letters, both DMV and DHS took immediate steps to improve or clarify their policies, and began discussions to update others. You can read the letters below--first Grosso's letter to DMV and the response from Director Babers, second Grosso's letter to DHS and the response from Director Zeilinger. The Councilmember thanks these agencies for their willingness to engage on these issues and make changes to their policies.

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Grosso Introduces Bill to Improve School Attendance

Today, Councilmember David Grosso and Chairman Phil Mendelson introduced the “School Attendance Clarification Amendment Act of 2015.” This legislation amends the District of Columbia’s compulsory school attendance laws based on lessons learned from the implementation of the South Capitol Street Memorial Amendment Act of 2012 and the Attendance Accountability Act of 2013. Many elements of the bill came from the work of the interagency Truancy Taskforce, which has been meeting over the past year to improve D.C.’s response to school attendance.

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200 turn out for D.C. Trans Day of Remembrance

By Lou Chibarro, November 23, 2015, Washington Blade

More than 200 people packed the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington on Nov. 20 to commemorate the lives of transgender people who died at the hands of hate violence in the U.S. and abroad over the past year.

The event, the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, included a ceremonial reading of the names of 22 transgender women who were murdered in the U.S. in 2015 as well as several dozen trans people also murdered this year in other countries.

“The Transgender Day of Remembrance occurs annually on Nov. 20 to honor those who have been murdered because of transphobia and those who have survived gender-based violence,” a statement released by organizers of the event says.

“The overarching goal is to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community with continued hope that together we can end such violence and intolerance,” the statement says.

Transgender activist Alexa Rodriquez read the names of trans people murdered in Latin American countries while three fellow Latina trans women held a 30-foot-long banner with photos of about a dozen of the victims along with Spanish language newspaper articles reporting on the killings.

Rodriquez said many of the killings took place in Brazil and El Salvador.

Among those speaking at the event were D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large); Marvin Bowser, brother of Mayor Muriel Bowser; and Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, supervisor of the D.C. police department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, who last year became the first transgender officer to be appointed to the position.

Veteran transgender activist Earline Budd, the lead organizer of the Trans Day of Remembrance event, said she was disappointed that Mayor Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier did not attend the event. Bowser’s predecessor, Mayor Vincent Gray, and Lanier each attended and spoke at the event last year.

Marvin Bowser said Mayor Bowser, who had the event listed on her schedule one day earlier, had to cancel her appearance after feeling “exhausted” from the strain of her trip to China the previous week to promote business investment and tourism for the city.

D.C. Police spokesperson Lt. Sean Conboy said Lanier wasn’t able to attend due to a scheduling conflict. But Budd said Lanier initially told her she planned to attend.

“She had given her personal commitment to being here,” Budd told the Blade. “And we never got a notice that she was not going to be here.”

The Trans Day of Remembrance came two days after D.C. police arrested a transgender activist during a protest demonstration in the city’s Columbia Heights section in which protesters blocked traffic during evening rush hour.

The arrest of trans activist Jes Grobman on a charge of allegedly assaulting a police officer and disobeying a lawful order to stop blocking traffic was denounced by more than two dozen fellow protesters, who had assembled on the sidewalk next to the Columbia Heights Metro station at 14th and Irving Streets, N.W., to draw attention to abuse of trans people by law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped the charge of assaulting a police officer but left in place the charge of disobeying a police order. The National LGBTQ Task Force issued a statement “condemning” Grobman’s arrest, saying police could have exercised restraint in responding to the protest.

Budd said she did not think Lanier decided against attending the Trans Day of Remembrance event out of fear of being booed by the trans activists attending the event, some of whom also participated in the protest on Nov. 18.

“She would not have been booed,” said Budd. “She has the respect of the community,” Budd said, noting that Lanier was received warmly during her appearance at the event last year.

Grosso, a longtime supporter of the LGBT community, read a resolution unanimously approved by the City Council formally recognizing the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Marvin Bowser and Sheila Alexander Reid, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, presented an official proclamation from the mayor declaring Nov. 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance in the District of Columbia.

Marvin Bowser and Grosso noted that discrimination and violence targeting the D.C. trans community continues despite the fact that D.C. has in place the nation’s strongest legal protections for transgender people.

“It’s not so much because we haven’t tried, but because there needs to be a mindset change,” Grosso told the gathering. “You need to change the culture here entirely and begin to see people as human beings from day one and not this horrible stigma and these horrible prejudices that we send and let grow in our communities,” he said.

More than a dozen representatives of the local trans community, including several youths, spoke about their personal experiences of discrimination and violence.

“I’m a transgender woman,” said Kimora Green. “No matter if you’re Hispanic, black, Caucasian, no matter if you’re passable or not, we all go through the trials and tribulations of being told, ‘Oh faggot stay away from me,’ or being told ‘You’re a man,’ or being told, ‘You just need to die – kill yourself,’” she said. “I’ve been told that many a time.”

[Transgender Day of Remembrance, gay news, Washington Blade]

Kimora Green (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Green and others who told of similar experiences said they have emerged as survivors who have become stronger and more determined to fight for their rights and push for change in society’s perception of trans people.

Others who spoke and participated in the event were Ruby Corado, founder and director of Casa Ruby, the local LGBT community services center; Lourdes Ashley Hunter, the national transgender rights advocate and chief operating officer at Casa Ruby; and veteran D.C. trans activists Dee Curry, Jessica Xavier and Jeri Hughes.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign; and Lt. Cheryl Crawley, commander of the police Special Liaison Division, which oversees the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, also attended the event but did not speak.

Hawkins told the gathering she is happy to be in a position on the police force where she can work with the LGBT community in which she is a part. After listening to her fellow trans brothers and sisters recount the difficulties they sometimes face, Hawkins said she, too, has encountered such hassles.

“Even though I’m a police officer, I still get the looks,” she said. “I still get the ridicule. I still get people saying stupid things to me.”

[Transgender Day of Remembrance, gay news, Washington Blade]

Sgt. Jessica Hawkins (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

But she said the department and the chief are committed to protecting the rights of the city’s diverse population, including the trans community.

“I know there’s a lot of distrust with the police,” she said. “If you hear of a bad outcome or a bad interaction between someone that’s my brother and sister and an officer, let me know. I promise we will take care of it.”

Rev. Dwayne Johnson, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, which ministers to the LGBT community, delivered an opening prayer at the event. Rev. Abena McCray-Peters of D.C. Unity Fellowship Church, which also has a largely LGBT congregation, officiated over the reading of the names.

Curry, who received a standing ovation for the remarks she delivered at the event, told the Blade it would have a lasting impact on the community.

“I think this was one of the best Transgender Days of Remembrance since the inception of the whole program,” she said. “I think that the diversity and the unity – I can feel the spirit here and I was so overwhelmed by it.”

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