Washington, DC

How does your state measure up when it comes to establishing policies that reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition?

Harm Reduction

Does the state permit access to clean syringes for people who inject drugs?

  • YES

Does the state have naloxone training & distribution programs available to the public at syringe exchange programs or other facilities?

  • YES

Does the state have a 911 Good Samaritan law?

  • YES

Does the state have legal methadone access?

  • YES


Are marijuana possession and use legal for medical purposes?

Is there a government-regulated distribution system for medical marijuana?

  • YES

More information on medical marijuana:

What are the criminal penalties for marijuana possession?

Criminal Justice

How many people are arrested for a drug offense each year? 

  • 210

What are the racial disparities in arrest rates?

  • Total population (2011): 42.4% white, 50.7% black.
    Drug Arrests (2011): 10.0% white, 89.5% black.

What happens to people’s voting rights when they become part of the criminal justice system?

  • Vote restored after: Term of Incarceration

Republicans Vote to Block Washington, D.C.'s New Marijuana Decriminalization Law

Fight Over Amendment Expected to Move Next to House Floor

Amendment Takes Effect Long After D.C. Marijuana Law Takes Effect, Meaning It May Only Prevent the City from Issuing $25 Fines for Marijuana Possession, Creating De Facto Legalization

Washington, D.C. – This morning the House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) prohibiting the District of Columbia from spending any of its locally-raised revenues to carry out any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce criminal penalties for marijuana. The amendment is directed at a recent law the District of Columbia passed replacing jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use with a small fine.

Contact:  Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Bill Piper 202-669-6430

Tomorrow: Republicans in Congress May Seek to Block Washington, D.C. from Reforming Its Marijuana Laws

Congressional Interference Comes After D.C. Lawmakers Decriminalize Marijuana to Ease Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System

Washington, D.C. – Republicans may offer an amendment to a federal appropriations bill tomorrow morning that would prevent the District of Columbia from implementing the marijuana decriminalization law recently passed by the D.C. City Council and signed into law by the mayor in March. The amendment would prohibit spending federal funds or even its locally raised funds to carry out any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce criminal penalties for marijuana.

Contact:   Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 or Grant Smith (202) 421-5031

D.C. Police Chief Orders No Drug or Alcohol-Related Arrests for People Protected by D.C. Overdose Prevention Law

D.C. Law Encourages Calling 911 in Drug Overdose Cases; Some Drug and Alcohol Law Violations Not a Crime When Help is Sought

D.C. Part of National Momentum to Fight Overdose Deaths with 911 Good Samaritan Laws and Increased Naloxone Access

In a recent memorandum, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier has instructed her police force to observe protections from arrest and charge granted under a D.C. law designed to encourage residents to seek immediate medical assistance for a person experiencing an overdose. The Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Amendment Act of 2012 (#A19-564), which was passed by the D.C.

Contact:  Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Grant Smith 202-421-5031

Drug Policy Alliance Hires Dr. Malik Burnett to Advance Marijuana Legalization in the District of Columbia

Duke University-Trained Medical Doctor To Build Community Support for Ballot Initiative 71 that Would Legalize Marijuana Possession
Organizing Focus Will Be on Racial Disparities and Societal Harms Not Resolved by Marijuana Decriminalization

WASHINGTON, DC—Former surgeon, Dr. Malik Burnett has joined Drug Policy Alliance as a full-time organizer in the District of Columbia. Burnett, a policy manager based in DPA’s Office of National Affairs in Washington, DC, will prioritize building support for Initiative 71, the taxation and regulation of marijuana through the D.C. Council and other drug policy reform initiatives that will advance social and racial justice in the nation's capital.


Tony Newman (646) 335-5384

Dr. Malik Burnett   (202) -683-2983

Republican Congressman to Introduce Legislation to Block New D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Law

In Congressional Hearing, Republican-Led Panel Criticizes New D.C. Law
D.C. Council Passed Decriminalization Law to Address Racial Disparities and Out-of-Control Arrests

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Operations held a hearing today on legislation recently passed by the District of Columbia that eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana possession. The panel, chaired by Rep. John Mica (R-FL), heard testimony describing severe racial disparities in the enforcement of D.C. marijuana laws and strong support among D.C. lawmakers and residents for eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana possession.


Grant Smith (202) 421-5031
Tony Newman (646) 335-5384  

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray Signs Far-Reaching Marijuana Decriminalization Legislation; Bill Next Goes to U.S. Congress for Review

Legislation Ends Marijuana Possession Arrests in D.C. and Reduces Racial Disparities Perpetuated by Marijuana Prohibition
Religious, Civil Rights, Anti-Poverty and Community Voices Praise Mayor and Urge Against Congressional Interference

Today, Mayor Vincent Gray approved legislation passed by D.C. Councilmembers on March 4th that would eliminate criminal penalties for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in the nation’s capital and treat possession as a civil offense subject to a small fine. In accordance with federal law, the legislation will not become law until it has been transmitted by the D.C. Council to Congress and available for a period of time for review that is expected to stretch into the summer months.

Grant Smith (202) 421-5031 or      
Tony Newman (646) 335-5384  

DC and NY: Mexican Legislators to Discuss Mexico's Marijuana Reform Proposals

Marijuana Decriminalization and Medical Marijuana Legislation Recently Introduced

Unprecedented Momentum for Drug Policy Reform Continues to Spread Throughout Latin America

This week, legislators from the Mexican Congress and the Mexico City Assembly will be in DC and NY to discuss the bills they introduced to decriminalize the consumption and purchase of marijuana for personal use in Mexico City and to legalize medical marijuana countrywide.

Contact: Tony Newman (646)335-5384 or Sarah Aguilar Flaschka: saguilar.df@senado.gob.mx

D.C. Council Passes Far-Reaching Marijuana Decriminalization Legislation

Legislation Ends Marijuana Possession Arrests in D.C.; Bill Goes to Mayor Vincent Gray for Signature

Advocates Cheer Passage of Legislation that Will Reduce Enormous Racial Disparities Perpetuated by Marijuana Prohibition

In a vote today of 10-1, the D.C. Council approved legislation that would eliminate criminal penalties for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in the nation’s capital and treat possession as a civil offense. The legislation goes next to District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray who has expressed support for decriminalization.

Contact:   Grant Smith (202) 421-5031 or Tommy McDonald (510) 229-5215

Mayoral Candidates to Address Issues of Race, Policing and Criminal Justice at Public Forum

D.C. Residents Invited to Learn Candidate Views on High Profile Racial and Criminal Justice Issues

Forum Addresses Issues Pertinent to D.C. Residents Affected by Criminal Justice System

A coalition of civil rights and civil liberties’ organizations are hosting "Race, Policing and Criminal Justice," a D.C. mayoral forum that will educate the public about candidate’s views on criminal and racial justice issues. On any given day in the District, more than 16,000 people are under court-ordered supervision or incarcerated. Thousands more D.C. residents are affected by a loved one’s involvement in the criminal justice system and how law enforcement interacts with the community.

Contact:  Seema Sadanandan (202) 601-4278

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