WASHINGTON -- With the nation's capital on the brink of essentially decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, federal law enforcement and members of Congress are staying out of the D.C. Council's debate.
Ron Machen, U.S. attorney for D.C., said back in November that he thought there were "a lot of problems with trying to decriminalize marijuana possession," but his office hasn't been vocal about the legislation since.
"Our office has not taken a position," Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for D.C., told HuffPost, adding that the office is "reviewing the decriminalization legislation currently being considered by the D.C. Council and have no further comment at this time."
A spokeswoman from the Drug Enforcement Administration referred questions to Justice Department headquarters, which did not respond to a request for comment. Attorney General Eric Holder, a D.C. resident himself, said last month that he didn't believe legalizing marijuana would necessarily make it easier for children to obtain the drug.
Over in Congress, it doesn't appear that any members of the House have issued statements condemning the proposed legislation. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who previously spoke out against D.C.'s decision to legalize medical marijuana for some purposes, hasn't yet said anything about the decriminalization proposal. "Honestly, there really isn’t a reason he hasn’t weighed in," his spokeswoman, MJ Henshaw, told HuffPost.
Marijuana advocates say the feds' silence says a lot about the evolution of the marijuana debate.
"When the District passed medical marijuana in 1998, Congress did everything it could to prevent votes from being cast and, once that failed, to prevent the District from implementing the law. That nothing is happening now is a sign of how much things have changed," Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project told The Huffington Post. "Most members of Congress are, like the president, bending over backwards to avoid taking a position on the issue. The few that you see talking publicly about marijuana publicly -- Blumenauer, Polis, Cohen, etc. -- are saying it should be legal, taxed and regulated, and criticizing those who support prohibition."
About 3,000 people were arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in D.C. in 2012, according to the U.S. attorney's office. About two-thirds were charged, and most of them entered diversion programs or had their cases dismissed.
"Prosecutors strongly support and participate in programs including the Superior Court Drug Intervention Program and Mental Health Community Court designed to provide treatment to address the underlying causes of crime," Miller told HuffPost. "Even among those who are ineligible for diversion and are convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession, the vast majority receive probation as a result. In 2012, only 5 percent of people arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in the District of Columbia served any jail time as a result, many of whom had lengthy criminal records or committed the offense while on supervised release for another crime."
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