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Wells pushes for decriminalizing pot

Monday - 2/3/2014, 1:08pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Ahead of Tuesday's D.C. Council vote to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells stood with civil rights and civil liberties organizations calling on the council to pass the bill without watering it down.

"It decriminalizes possession of small amounts of pot and it really goes a long way to try and correct a social injustice," says Wells, who is running for mayor.

Medical marijuana is already legal in the district.

Wells' bill bans police officers from stopping and searching a person based solely on whether the officer smells marijuana. He's hoping council members don't strip that provision from the bill.

"The people [in D.C.] that are disproportionally impacted are African- American. Ninety-one percent of all arrests for marijuana are African-Americans and we know the city is not 91 percent black," Wells says.

The bill specifically says if someone is caught with an ounce or less of marijuana, he would get a $25 fine. There would be no jail time. Someone caught smoking marijuana in public would get slapped with a $100 fine.

Currently under D.C. law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense that carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

"I'm fairly certain we have the votes to pass a bill that is substantially intact."

It is possible an amendment would be added that says if a person is driving a vehicle that smells of marijuana, police could consider that probable cause. Such an amendment would allow police to stop a person for driving under the influence of marijuana, which would be similar to a drunk driving stop.

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