Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sorry, marijuana decriminalization is not retroactive

Robert E. Washington v.United States, No. 13-CM-1331 (Decided March 19, 2015)

Players: Associate Judges Fisher and Blackburne-Rigsby, Senior Judge Pryor.  Opinion by Fisher.  William T. Morrison for Mr. Washington.  Trial Judge: John F. McCabe.

Facts:  On July 5, 2013, Mr. Washington was charged with possessing 1.8 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia—five days before the Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014, D.C. Law 20-126, was introduced before the City Council.  The act decriminalized “the possession of transfer without remuneration of marijuana weighing one ounce or less,” as well as the possession of paraphernalia associated with such possession.  Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment §§ 101(a) and (c), 409(a), 61 D.C. Reg. 3482, 3482 (2014).  The act became law on July 17, 2014.  61 D.C. Reg. 8250 (2014). 

Issue:  Does the Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014 apply retroactively to offenses committed before July 17, 2014?

Holding:  No.  The act was passed against the backdrop of the general savings statutes, 1 U.S.C. § 109 (2012) and D.C. Code § 49-304 (a) (2012 Repl.), which provide that the repeal or amending of statutes will not affect offenses committed under those statutes unless the legislature expressly provides as much.  The DCCA held that “[t]here is no language in the Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment or its legislative history that expressly states or necessarily implies that the statute applies retroactively to” offenses committed before July 17, 2014.  CP

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