Let’s stop wrecking lives over a bag of weed

by Paul Zuckerberg

In a little office on the third floor of Metropolitan Police Headquarters on Indiana Avenue NW is a small window to the future — open to some, closed to many. This is where you get your D.C. “police clearance.”

If you have never been there, that’s because you have never applied for a job flipping burgers, mowing lawns or cleaning restrooms in the District. Room 3033 is the human resources department for the poor, the young and the disenfranchised. The piece of paper you get there — if you have no criminal record — is what you need to land a job. Without it, you’re out of luck.

For 29 years, I have defended clients facing marijuana charges in the District. At every initial appearance, without fail, the judge admonishes the defendant either to stay in school or to hold down a job. In the majority of cases, however, a job is not possible because most employers in this town will not hire entry-level workers who do not have a police clearance.

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