D.C. residents, candidates support marijuana decriminalization

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Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer

Three-quarters of registered voters in D.C. support decriminalizing marijuana possession and making it punishable by just a $100 citation, according to a survey of 1,621 voters conducted by Public Policy Polling.

All the leading candidates in the at-large D.C. Council race support decriminalizing marijuana, but one man has put pot above all else.

"I hate to quote Richard Nixon, but there is a silent majority that supports this," said Paul Zukerberg, who is on the ballot for Tuesday's special election. "We're arresting thousands and thousands of young people every year for marijuana. It's a bad policy and it's terrible."

Dispensaries nearly ready to open
The District's proposed medical marijuana facilities are awaiting approval from government regulators, but one center said it hoped to open Friday. Rabbi Jeff Kahn with the Takoma Wellness Center wrote in an email that a final inspection would take place on Thursday and that the center hoped to open on Friday. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said that marijuana dispensaries had not begun serving patients. Vanessa West, general manager for the Metropolitan Wellness Center, wrote in an email that the center is meeting with the Department of Health, which will conduct an onsite inspection. - April Burbank

A rarity in politics, candidates in the at-large race readily praise their opponent's advocacy of the issue.

"He's convinced me. I'm serious," said Democratic candidate Elissa Silverman, who says she supports decriminalizing marijuana but is undecided on outright legalization.

Zukerberg is planning a concert on Saturday at Third Street and Constitution Avenue NW to draw attention to the issue and his candidacy.

One reason why rival candidates back Zukerberg on the issue might have to do with his position in the race: The PPP survey found only 2 percent support for Zukerberg, compared with 19 percent for incumbent Council member Anita Bonds, 13 percent for Silverman, 13 percent for Patrick Mara, 8 percent for Matthew Frumin and 2 percent for Statehood Green Party candidate Perry Redd.

"He may come up a little bit short of first place, but he's certainly used the soapbox that he has," said Mara, the race's lone Republican. For his part, Mara said he supports marijuana decriminalization but said it's not his top priority.

"I would consider sponsoring legislation," he said. "I think it would depend on what committees I'm assigned to."

Bonds is generally supportive of decriminalizing marijuana, according to her campaign.

Frumin, an advisory neighborhood commissioner, said he supported decriminalization as well.

"I share the view expressed by Paul Zukerberg that it's a good idea to move toward decriminalization of marijuana," Frumin said. "And for the same reasons that he has raised, both in terms of the burden on our criminal justice, the police, the courts the prosecutors -- and the impacts on kids."

The poll also found that a majority of respondents, 64 percent, supported legalizing the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for people 21 and older.

The majority of respondents also indicated that police resources should be directed away from marijuana enforcement.

Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana, and a number of cities including New York and Chicago have decriminalized marijuana possession.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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