Atlanta City officials voted unanimously to pass a proposal to decriminalize marijuana in a 15-0 vote. The proposal will downgrade the penalties for up to one ounce of marijuana possession to no jail time and a fine of $75. The current state marijuana laws consist of up to six months in county jail, a year in prison and a $1000 fine. The proposal will be an amendment to Georgia state laws for marijuana possession penalties.
This is a huge victory for the city whose bias arrest rates against African-Americans for small amounts of marijuana possession is well known. Almost all the arrests in Fulton County are of African-Americans, 92 percent to be exact. City Councilman Kwanza Hall said that this is just the beginning of several reform policies. It was Hall that first proposed the marijuana decriminalization legislation.
The new law is a contrast to most cities regarding marijuana. In legal states such as California, cities are using ordinances to ban commercial marijuana sales and cultivation. The proposal aims specifically to combat the bias of law enforcement officials.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was on the fence regarding the proposal, worrying that cannabis may be a gateway for people to move on to more dangerous drugs. On the other hand, he also felt that the current state laws are being used as a tool by biased law enforcement officials against people in minority communities. The mayor has eight days to veto or sign the new legislation, but it is still valid without his signature.
Council members were quick to point out that the new law would only be valid inside of Atlanta. People that are arrested outside of Atlanta city limits with pot in their possession will be penalized by the current Georgia state marijuana laws, not the new city ordinance. At least 30,000 people are arrested in Georgia every year for possession of marijuana.
Author Bio: Niko Mann is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. She enjoys writing about activism, social justice, politics, education, marketing, and comedy.