Washington, D.C., police Chief Robert Contee III said Friday that marijuana has "undoubtedly" contributed to the city's rise in crime.
Contee said at a press conference following a Thursday shooting in northwest D.C. that while many people do not see marijuana as a big issue, the substance “undoubtedly is connected to violent crimes that we are seeing in our communities.”
“When you have something where people get high reward – they can make a lot of money by selling illegal marijuana – and … the risk for accountability is very low, that creates a very, very, very bad situation because those individuals get robbed,” he said. “Those individuals get shot at. Those individuals get involved in disputes all across our city.”
Contee said that the nation's capital has seen an increase in marijuana-related crimes, including a homicide in connection with an illegal cannabis dealer. He said that marijuana offenders do not fear consequences for possessing the substance and that illegal sales are a “recipe for disaster.”
“And again, think about it. People – what is the risk for people? Is there a prosecution that is going to happen?” he asked. “Really, is there a prosecution of a guy with marijuana? I’ve heard some community members saying these guys are keeping scales on them where they’re measuring out their marijuana so that the police are not able to lock them up. That’s something we have to look at as a community.”
While recreational marijuana use is legal in D.C., laws still prohibit selling marijuana to another person, possessing more than 2 ounces of marijuana, operating a vehicle under the influence of the substance or using it in public spaces.
Contee's comments come after Senate Democrats unveiled a draft bill of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act last week, which would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said earlier this week that he does not think there is any value in locking people up for marijuana use.