D.C. Police Chief Supports Marijuana Legalization

By McCarton Ackerman 03/04/15

Chief Cathy Lanier is standing by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Cathy Lanier
Chief Cathy Lanier. Shutterstock

The police chief of Washington, D.C. has gone on record in support of marijuana legalization, boldly declaring that alcohol is a much bigger issue in the nation’s capital.

Last month’s official legalization of recreational marijuana in D.C. has sparked plenty of backlash in Congress, with members of Congress threatening jail time to District Mayor Muriel Bowser if the voter-approved marijuana legalization went forward. But D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier has stood by Bowser and said that marijuana isn’t a public safety concern.

“Marijuana smokers are not going to attack and kill a cop. They just want to get a bag of chips and relax. Alcohol is a much bigger problem,” said Lanier, according to The Daily Beast, during a recent speech at the American News Women’s Club. “I’m not policing the city as a mom. I’m policing it as the police chief—and 70% of the public supported this.”

Lanier also said that D.C. cops hated arresting people for marijuana possession because it didn’t stop anyone from smoking and created more paperwork for the officers. She also believes that “all these arrests do is make people hate us.” Marijuana arrests have declined considerably in D.C. since its possession laws were relaxed considerably last year. Public smoking or possession now results in a $25 fine, and a Washington Times study found that 70% of those hit with the fine ignored the citation completely.

Last month, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine also threatened members of the D.C. City Council with fines and possible jail time for discussing marijuana, forcing them to halt plans for a hearing on legalization. Racine said the meeting “would violate federal and civil criminal codes and provisions,” resulting in the dozens of witnesses in attendance to instead participate in an informal, round-table discussion.

But Michael Botticelli, the acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said it wasn’t Congress’ place to try and stop marijuana legalization.

“As a resident of the District, I might not agree about legalization, but I do agree with our own ability to spend our own money the way that we want to do that,” he said. “The president, as it relates to the District, I think was very clear that the District should stick to its home rule.” Obama’s 2015 budget also calls for D.C. to spend its own money regulating marijuana.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.