CONTACT: Seema Sadanandan, Program Director, 202-601-4278, seema@aclu-nca.orgMonica Hopkins-Maxwell, Executive Director, 202-457-0800,

WASHINGTON – The House Appropriations Committee today approved an amendment that blocks implementation of D.C.'s marijuana decriminalization law. The District of Columbia Appropriations bill includes a provision prohibiting the D.C. government from spending federal funds or even locally raised funds to carry out any law, rule, or regulation to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana. The amendment was introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.).

“By any measure, the war on drugs, particularly on marijuana, has been a failure and severely impacted Black communities and communities of color,” said Monica Hopkins-Maxwell, Executive Director at the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital. “Today’s rider passage is a detrimental blow in the D.C. Council’s attempt to enact smarter, fairer laws that address racial disparities and the mass incarceration of communities of color.”

A 2013 ACLU-NCA study found that a Black person is eight times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as a white person in D.C. despite similar rates of use. In 2010 alone, law enforcement in the District made 5,393 arrests for marijuana offenses, of which 91 percent were of Black people. The D.C. Council passed the decriminalization bill to address that extreme disparity and reduce racial profiling. The bill would have prohibited police from using the smell of marijuana as a pretext for stopping and searching individuals.

“The District's marijuana laws have been selectively enforced on Black people and wasted tremendous resources while failing to make our community any safer for far too long,” said Seema Sadanandan, Program Director at the ACLU of the Nation's Capital. “This type of racially disparate application of laws has no place in our nation's capital. This amendment is a step backwards for racial justice, drug policy, and fiscal responsibility for the District"

The District spent more per capita on marijuana enforcement than any of the 50 states in 2010. Despite being a top priority, the aggressive enforcement of marijuana laws has failed to eradicate or even diminish the use of marijuana.


Information about marijuana arrests in Washington, DC, The War on Marijuana in Black and White:

The ACLU of the Nation’s Capital:

The ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project: