By Shawn Sukumar, barred in the District of Columbia. Shawn practices criminal law including cases involving traffic stops, drug offenses and DUIs.
If you are in Washington D.C., the law allows you to possess, grow, or give away as a gift marijuana. What you are not allowed to do is sell it. It is that law that D.C. police are using for the $20 sting operations they have been running lately.
Last month, police ran sting operations where they purchased $20 worth of marijuana in separate occasions which resulted in the arrests of seven people. The limit of possession under the local law is two ounces. Twenty dollars will currently get someone approximately one gram of pot, far below the legal limit of two ounces.
A spokesperson for the police said the decision to run these sting operations were a result of complaints from people living in the neighborhoods where the operations took place, which were located southeast of the Anacostia River and does not reflect a change in the department’s marijuana policy.
One of the founders of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign expressed some doubts as to the department’s statement. In a statement, activist Adam Eidinger said, “I would disagree; there is a crackdown compared to the first year after legalization,” he says. “The first year of legalization in 2015 was very hands-off, except for in Ward 8 with public smoking arrests, but now citywide there seems to be a crackdown.”
One of the major issues in marijuana reform is the failure of federal laws to recognize the changes that state laws have made when it comes to the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana.
Two months ago, statements made by Attorney Jeff Sessions drew sharp criticism from marijuana advocates when he said that marijuana use is “slightly less awful” than heroin use and questioned the viability of medical marijuana.
Under current law, there is a congressional spending rider protecting medical marijuana. There is not one for recreational marijuana because the Justice Department under the Obama presidency chose to leave it up to local prosecutors in order to allow for state autonomy.
But many of the current AG’s rattlings have indicated that he may be considering legal action that could overturn the current state-regulated marijuana markets.
In a discussion regarding the latest police stings and possible threat to current marijuana laws, defense attorney Shawn Sukumar said, “It appears that law enforcement – under the influence of the current administration – may be once again taking a heavy-handed approach to marijuana policing. The majority of D.C. residents have spoken with their overwhelming support and approval to eradicate the criminalization of marijuana, as well as study after study which proves the benefits of medical marijuana to people suffering from a range of illnesses. Why does it appear that law enforcement is not listening?”