Up In Smoke: Two announcements you may have missed that will affect DC residents

In you live in the District, there were two News announcements you may have missed that figuratively sent up smoke signals around the whole DMV.

One is related to health and the other is related to addressing racial disparities.

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CVS, one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains will stop selling cigarettes at its 7,600 locations by October 1st.

This will be an expensive but calculated bid to boost its image as a full-fledged health-care provider rather than a simple purveyor of greeting cards and shampoo.

Industry analysts and public health advocates called it a watershed decision that could pressure other major pharmacies to follow suit. With health care on track to make up a fifth of the U.S. economy by 2022, CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens — even Wal-Mart, Target and Kroger — have been rushing to open in-store clinics that administer flu shots and provide other services more traditionally offered in a doctor’s office.

“By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health-care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health-care company,” Larry Merlo, president and chief executive of CVS, said in a video statement. “Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered. This is the right thing to do.”

President Obama — a former smoker — praised the chain’s decision in a statementWednesday, saying the change “sets a powerful example” that will “help advance my administration’s efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs — ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come.”

decriminalizingcannabis The D.C. Council voted Tuesday to eliminate criminal penalties for possession of marijuana.

The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013, calls for fines in the case of simple cannabis possession (less than one ounce). Those 18 and over would be subject to a $25 fine for possession – not much different than a parking ticket. Those caught smoking in public would be subject to a fine of $100. Further, police officers would no longer be able to search your property as a result of the smell or sight of cannabis. The bill also eliminates penalties for paraphernalia in conjunction with cannabis in small amounts. Councilmember David Grosso, a supporter of the bill, said, “Putting people in jail is no longer the solution to this problem. I think the war on drugs has really failed. And what we need to do is to find a way to heal our communities from that and to make sure that people are no longer being thrown in jail for non-violent offenses.”Councilmember Yvette Alexander was the lone dissenter in a preliminary vote. She is concerned the bill would make Washington a top drug market. “It will increase more attraction to this area for the sale of drugs. Because the purchase of drugs has little to no repercussion,” she said. Supporters argue decriminalization will cut law enforcement costs and address racial disparities recently outlined in a report by the American Civil Liberties Union, which advocates for American civil rights.

The report found people of color are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Washington, even though usage rates are often higher in certain white communities. Decriminalization advocates say racial disparities in arrests are a nationwide problem and threaten a generation of black Americans with the stigma of criminal records.

 

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