On Monday, the Atlanta City Council sent its proposal to reduce fines and penalties for personal marijuana possession to the Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee for further consideration.
Under current Georgia State law, individuals busted with less than 1 ounce of marijuana face the unfortunate reality of spending up to 180 days in jail and paying a $1,000 fine.
Sponsored by mayoral candidate and City Councilman Kwanza Hall, the new proposal would provide legal cover for anyone caught carrying less than 1 ounce of marijuana in Atlanta. If approved by council members and signed by the mayor, the new ordinance would replace jail time and a five-figure fine with a $75 ticket, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle:
“We’re not legalizing marijuana. We’re not even decriminalizing it,” said Councilman Kwanza Hall, the ordinance’s sponsor. “We’re trying to reclassify it and create a new pathway … to prevent people from going into the criminal justice system.”
By decreasing arrests to increase public health and safety, supporters believe the new ordinance would benefit those disproportionately affected by the current marijuana laws – like the chronically poor and ethnically diverse.
In 2013, approximately 35,000 individuals were arrested in Georgia State for marijuana, of which 85% were busted for simple possession. Statistics show The Peach State currently “ranks sixth in the nation for annual marijuana arrests,” according to Peachtree NORML. A grim statistic, between 2014 in 2016, 92% of those arrested for the simple possession of marijuana in Atlanta for less than 1 ounce of weed were black.
Sent back to the committee on a 10-4 vote by the Atlanta City Council for further discussion, opponents of the proposal contended that marijuana is still a gateway to harder drugs. By seeking greater input from local law enforcement officials, the courts, and Atlanta Public School Officials, the council hopes to advance their proposal and eliminate jail time for people caught with less than 1 ounce of marijuana in the near future.
Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett