The possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in District of Columbia was decriminalized with Monday's signing of a bill by Mayor Vincent Gray.
The new law makes possession of up to 28 grams of pot a civil violation with a penalty of $25, lower than most city parking tickets, according to Reuters. Possession had been a misdemeanor carrying up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
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Proponents had backed the measure as an issue of fairness. A study by the American Civil Liberties Union had shown that blacks in Washington were eight times more likely to be arrested for pot than people of other races.
After Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana last year, 2014 may be the year that accelerates that trend as more states gear-up for their own campaigns to legalize the substance
Supporters of legalization in Alaska, California, Arizona, and Oregon have voter-driven initiatives that would bypass state legislatures and secure ballot measures for the 2014 elections.
An advocacy group in Alaska submitted more than 46,000 signatures to the state election office to push for a voter referendum. If passed, Alaska would be the third state to legalize the drug, which would also authorize the opening of recreational marijuana stores.
In California, as many as four measures on the issue may be on the ballot, each of which would legalize use of the drug and its sales, but vary in the amount of marijuana residents would be able to grow and possess.
Voters in Oregon rejected a measure to legalize marijuana in 2012, but activists are working to resurrect the initiative in November either by having state legislators refer a proposal to voters or by generating support for a petition to get a measure on the ballot.
Grassroots activists in Arizona are also pursuing a voter-driven campaign for legalization.
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