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public safety

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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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Dept. of Corrections response leaves unanswered questions on employees in medical marijuana programs

In November, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Corrections to inquire about the Department’s policy and practices for drug and alcohol testing of employees. Specifically, the councilmember was interested in whether or not DOC was taking into account employees’ enrollment in medical marijuana programs as part of such testing.

“If an employee, for example, is undergoing treatment for cancer and is prescribed medical marijuana by a doctor to help with the side effects of treatment, it seems unreasonable and inappropriate that the employee would be penalized, or even subject to termination, because of seeking such medical care,” Grosso wrote.

After a delayed response, Director Quincy Booth laid out DOC’s practices and procedures and its adherence to District law. However, the response sidestepped a question specifically aimed at how DOC takes into account an employees enrollment in the medical marijuana program, instead focusing on how DOC complies, as other D.C. agencies do, with the impact of Initiative 71.

Initiative 71 dealt with recreational, not medical, marijuana.

The D.C. Department of Human Resources specifically sets out an exception for medical marijuana in District Personnel Manual Instruction No. 4-34, similar to exceptions for other prescription drugs

Councilmember Grosso will follow up with the Department of Corrections and the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety to ensure District government employees in the medical marijuana program are treated equally to those who require other prescription drugs for medical purposes.

Read Councilmember Grosso’s letter and DOC’s responses below.

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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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Committee on Education unanimously approves Grosso’s legislation to address school sexual assault

For Immediate Release:
November 27, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Committee on Education unanimously approves Grosso’s legislation to address school sexual assault

Washington, D.C. – The Committee on Education today unanimously approved Councilmember David Grosso’s legislation to address and prevent sexual assault and abuse in D.C. schools.

“As the Trump administration is rolling back protections for student victims of sexual assault, and amid a national conversation about sexual misconduct, the time for the Council to create safer school environments for our students is now,” Grosso said. “While the nation has understandably been focused on the tragic and all too frequent occurrence of school shootings, the prevalence of sexual assault and abuse in our schools has not received the attention that it deserves.”

Between 2011 and 2015, the Associated Press found approximately 17,000 cases of sexual assault were filed in K-12 schools across the country.

“In just the past year, several incidences of sexual assault—whether perpetrated by students or by adults against students—have occurred here in the District of Columbia, in both traditional public and public charter schools. It was upsetting enough to learn of these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate. Cases were mishandled. Victims, rather than the perpetrators, were punished. Claims were mocked,” Grosso said. “Through performance oversight hearings held this year, I grew more concerned that school leaders had not addressed this violence with appropriate urgency.”

The School Safety Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 requires all schools to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to sexual abuse by adults against children and sexual harassment and assault among students, including dating violence. The bill also increases the requirements of what efforts D.C. Public Schools and charter schools must make to uncover past sexual misconduct of any potential employees who will have direct contact with students.

Further, schools will need to provide age-appropriate instruction to students on consent, child abuse, personal boundaries, and healthy relationships.

Last year in D.C., 7% of heterosexual high-school aged youth and 15.4% of lesbian, gay or bisexual high-school aged youth had been physically forced to have sex when they did not want to, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The same survey found that 11.6% of heterosexual youth and 24.2% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth had been victims of dating violence.

The School Safety Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 will be considered by the full Council at the December 4th legislative meeting.

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Judiciary Committee advances legislation to help sexual abuse survivors heal

For Immediate Release:
October 4, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Judiciary Committee advances legislation to help sexual abuse survivors heal

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), member of the Committee on Judiciary & Public Safety, on the committee’s approval of the Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Amendment Act of 2018 which incorporates pieces of the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act, a measure Grosso introduced in 2015 and 2017:

“For over a decade, the Council has considered some form of legislation meant to help childhood survivors of sexual abuse heal from the trauma of their experience. Today, we finally advanced legislation that will allow those survivors to seek justice and recompense and further hold the individuals who perpetrate these atrocities accountable.

“I originally introduced the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act because I believe there are few actions more depraved than sexual violence against children. 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. 

“I applaud the expansion in the legislation we have approved today which allows an individual to file a civil suit to recover damages for any sexual abuse – not just acts of sexual abuse that occurred while the victim was a minor.

“The recent spate of high-profile cases involving allegations of and convictions for sexual abuse underscore the pervasiveness of sexual assault in America. The prevalence of these incidences, across every sector, from the Catholic Church to as far reaching as the Office of the President of the United States, defies the word "problem." This is an epidemic, and what we've come to realize is that American culture has and continues to reinforce the normalization of sexual violence. Far too often, survivors of sexual violence are let down by the justice system.

“While this bill is not a panacea, it will go a long way to encourage and empower victims to come forward and know that a fair and just system is in place to help them right wrongs and begin to heal.

“As policymakers, we have to ensure that every available option is afforded to those who have been harmed and this legislation will allow the many courageous survivors across the city to seek justice under the law. I want to thank Chairperson Charles Allen and his staff for the time and effort that has been dedicated to advancing this measure to mark-up. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation when it comes before the full Council.”

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Grosso schedules hearing on bills to prevent and respond to sexual abuse, assault in schools

For Immediate Release:
September 28, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso schedules hearing on bills to prevent and respond to sexual abuse, assault in schools

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, announcing a hearing on his legislation to address sexual assault and abuse in schools:

“How schools address the very real problems of sexual abuse and assault have been at the forefront of my mind over the past year. I was disturbed by reports last year that high schools were mishandling sexual assaults, in some cases punishing the victims of sexual assault.

“Through performance oversight hearings held this year, I grew more concerned that D.C. Public School senior leadership, the Office of Integrity, and some charter local education agencies were not taking these matters seriously. Then this week, the recordings from Roosevelt High School came to light. It has left parents, students, and the community uncertain about their own safety and how they will be treated if they are or were the victim of sexual assault.

“Our schools need to have more appropriate policies that support these victims and address the behaviors of the perpetrators. Last week, after working throughout the summer with education stakeholders, I introduced three pieces of legislation aimed at improving school safety at both traditional public and public charter schools in the District of Columbia.

“Two of the bills, the School Safety Act of 2018 and the Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018, would require all schools to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to both child sexual abuse between adults and minors and sexual harassment and assault among students, including dating violence. Further, schools will need to provide age-appropriate instruction to students on consent, personal boundaries, and healthy relationships.

“I will hold a hearing on these bills on November 1, 2018 in Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. I encourage all witnesses to sign up to testify to share their stories, or if they feel more comfortable, to submit written testimony to the Committee on Education by emailing testimony to astrange@dccouncil.us.”

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Grosso introduces three bills to improve school safety

For Immediate Release:
September 18, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso introduces three bills to improve school safety

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced three bills to create safer school environments for all students in the District of Columbia.

“Our students learn best when they are in a safe and welcoming environment,” said Grosso. “Addressing the very real concerns of sexual abuse and threats of physical violence are vital to protecting our students’ well-being.”

Grosso introduced the School Safety Act of 2018 today at the Council’s first legislative meeting following its summer recess. The bill requires both traditional public and charter schools to develop policies to prevent and properly respond to child sexual abuse when it occurs. It also mandates training for staff, students, and parents on child sexual abuse, in-line with legislation passed in many other jurisdictions.

“Over the past year we have seen incidences of sexual abuse and assault in our schools,” said Grosso, chairperson of the Council’s Committee on Education. “It was upsetting enough to learn of these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate. My legislation seeks to fix that.”

Additionally, schools will need to take additional steps to ensure educators have not previously been fired or lost their teaching license in another jurisdiction for sexual misconduct, including cross-checking potential hires against the national database of teachers’ licenses.

Under another bill Grosso filed on Tuesday, the Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018, schools will be required to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to sexual harassment and assault among students, including dating violence.

“I was disturbed by reports last year that high schools were mishandling sexual assaults, in some cases punishing the victims of sexual assault,” Grosso said. “They need to have more appropriate policies on the books that support these victims and address the behaviors of the perpetrators.”

Further under the bill, schools will need to provide age-appropriate instruction to students on consent, personal boundaries, and healthy relationships.

Finally, Grosso filed legislation, the Safe2Tell Act, creating an anonymous tip line for reporting student plans to do harm to themselves or others based on successful programs in other states including Colorado and Pennsylvania.

“At a time when the federal Department of Education is promoting more guns in schools as a response to violence, I am excited to continue the conversation in D.C. about how to truly make our schools safer.”

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Grosso requests DCPL's 3D printer policy to ensure public safety

Earlier this month, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter to D.C. Public Library Exectuive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan to request the policies and procedures in place to ensure that 3D printers associated with their Fabrication Lab, or Fab Lab, are not used to produce weapons or other harmful items.

"Our public libraries play a central role in the District of Columbia’s vibrancy. They educate, entertain, and foster community discourse," wrote Grosso. "We have a responsibility to safeguard these community centers from being used for a purpose that runs counter to our library’s mission or that adds to the persistent problem of violence across the city."

DCPL responded on August 13 with their full 3D printer policy, which explicitly prohibits patrons from producing items that can cause harm. In addition, library staff is involved in the production of materials and reserves the right to deny the production of any item in violation of the policy. Finally, the 3D printers available at the Fab Lab make it difficult to produce an operable firearm, which require a more advanced printer that uses a more durable form of plastic.

Councilmember Grosso appreciates DCPL for responding in a timely manner and for their forethought and thoroughness in addressing this issue.

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Grosso calls on MPD and USAO to suspend sex work-related arrests and prosecutions in the wake of website closures

For Immediate Release:
April 9, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso calls on MPD and USAO to suspend sex work-related arrests and prosecutions in the wake of website closures

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the government shutdown of websites that allowed sex workers to operate with a greater degree of safety than on the streets:

“The latest government attacks on online platforms used by sex workers are directly undermining the safety, health, and human rights of these individuals. I am deeply concerned as I read the reactions of D.C. residents who will be pushed into less safe situations on the streets where they will be subjected to more violence, have decreased ability to negotiate condom use, and encounter greater risk of arrest, making them less likely to contact authorities if they are attacked. In working with communities in D.C. over the past few years to develop better policy approaches to the issue of commercial sex, I have heard far too many personal stories of violence and harm as a result of the criminalized nature of the sex trade.

“Rather than work on the streets, sex workers have utilized a number of websites that allow them to better screen clients and negotiate safer interactions. Several of those websites closed in the past week following Congressional approval of a pair of bills, SESTA and FOSTA. This legislation is alleged to combat human trafficking, but there is little evidence that it will accomplish that noble goal. In fact, the two bills were opposed by the largest network in the country of organizations serving human trafficking survivors. Rather than help people who are being coerced into commercial sex, the effect of these website closures will be to push trafficking further underground. This also has the effect of harming innumerable people involved in the sex trade who are not being coerced but, by a complex combination of choice and circumstance, are seeking to earn money. The sweeping nature of the legislation also undermines the work of harm reduction organizations that work with these communities, thereby preventing the provision of critical services.

“Due to the great risk of violence faced by street-based sex workers, our government needs to take bold and urgent action. I call on Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham and U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu to temporarily suspend arrests and prosecutions of those involved in commercial sex unless the individual has caused violence or coercion. Instead, the Chief and U.S. Attorney, along with front-line officers and commanders, should meet with individuals trading sex with the goal of understanding the risks they face and what steps are necessary to build trust in order to prevent and respond to violence and coercion. I am happy to work with both MPD and USAO to facilitate such a meeting.

 “We must remember that there are human beings’ welfare and lives on the line. We have a responsibility as government officials to look out for those who our society and laws marginalize. We should be pursuing evidence-based solutions to stop coercion and help minors who are exploited, including by addressing the demand for housing, food, employment, rationale immigration laws, and respect for human rights.”

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Judiciary Committee holds hearing on Grosso bill to modernize criminal record sealing

For Immediate Release:
December 14, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

 

Judiciary Committee holds hearing on Grosso bill to modernize criminal record sealing

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on today’s Judiciary & Public Safety Committee hearing on several measures to improve the process of sealing criminal records in the District of Columbia, including Councilmember Grosso’s Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2017:

"I am extremely encouraged by the broad agreement heard in today’s hearing that improvements can be made to the way the District of Columbia handles the sealing of criminal records.  Proposals from myself, Councilmembers Robert White and Trayon White, and Mayor Muriel Bowser, demonstrate the strong will within both branches to move forward with reforms that will remove barriers to successful reentry for our residents with criminal records.

"My legislation is the result of extensive research and consultation.  I recognize that it pushes the envelope. 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. My hope is that we can take the proposals discussed today and bring them together into one reform package to be advanced in the new year.

"All of the community members, advocates, and especially returning citizens who contributed to the development of the Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2017 or testified today deserve thanks, and have my deep appreciation for their engagement. I also want to thank Chairperson Charles Allen for holding this important hearing so quickly, as well as Councilmember Robert White, Councilmember Trayon White, and Mayor Bowser for their passion on this issue.  I look forward to working with them and the rest of my colleagues to make these necessary changes a reality."

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on findings that killing of Terrence Sterling was unjustified

For Immediate Release:
December 5, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on findings that killing of Terrence Sterling was unjustified

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the announcement of the findings of the Use of Force Review Board in the case of Terrence Sterling:

"I welcome the announcement from Chief Newsham today on the conclusions of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Use of Force Review Board regarding the September 2016 killing of Terrence Sterling.  As D.C. strives to improve faith and trust in law enforcement, it is every government official’s and police officer’s obligation to continue to hold MPD members to the highest standard in protecting the communities they serve.

"Though I believe the officer should have been charged by the U.S. Attorney, I supported the mayor and MPD’s request that the officer resign back in August, as well as the full disciplinary review.  That review is now complete. It has been determined that the shooting was unjustified and that the officer should be terminated. This is the right course of action. I hope that it can give those who loved Mr. Sterling some sense of justice.

"I remain committed to further utilization of non-violent methods, along with a public health and community-based approach to policing, in order to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future and rebuild the trust necessary for the safety of all our residents."

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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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No evidence that more police officers will reduce violent crime in D.C.

Today, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to his colleagues on the Council of the District of Columbia regarding a proposal introduced that would increase the number of officers serving in the Metropolitan Police Department.

"It is my belief that while we must act urgently to stop violent crime in the District of Columbia, there is no evidence that increasing the number of officers to 4,200 would achieve that result," Grosso wrote.

According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, D.C. had approximately twice the number of sworn officers per 10,000 residents in 2015 as similarly sized cities.  Despite more officers, D.C. did not have a corresponding low-level of violent crime when compared to these other cities.

Instead of increasing the number of officers, the city should continue to embrace the public health approach to ending violence in our neighborhoods.

"The public health paradigm, with programs focused on violence interruption and preventing its spread, has proven successful in many other cities, with evaluations showing reductions of shootigns and killings by as much as 50% in targeted neighborhoods," Grosso wrote.

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