DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: On Tuesday, the D.C. Council will have a chance to pass what civil rights groups are calling the strongest marijuana decriminalization bill in the country.
The proposal, offered by Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who represents Capitol Hill and is also running for mayor, would prevent police officers from stopping and searching D.C. residents solely because officers smell pot. Supporters also see it as an attempt to end racial profiling.
“This bill uniquely changes the dialogue about the purpose of decriminalization and the purpose of legalization of marijuana,” said Patrice Sulton, a spokeswoman for the local chapter of the NAACP.
Rather than approaching the decriminalization under the guise of marijuana being a safe substance or as a gateway for recreational use, proponents say they want to stop selective policing of pot in the District. The bill was motivated by an American Civil Liberties Union study showing that Washington, D.C., had the highest per-capita marijuana arrest rate in the nation between 2001 and 2010, and that blacks were eight times more likely to be arrested than whites.