Bill to Decriminalize Cannabis Possession in Atlanta Moves Forward

A bill that would decriminalize cannabis possession in Atlanta has made the first big step toward becoming law, with the Atlanta city council’s public safety committee approving the bill and forwarding it to the full city council.”

According to Atlanta’s WGCL-TV, the bill was introduced back in March by city councilman Kwanza Hall, and seeks to reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of cannabis to a $75 fine with no jail time.

This is quite the dramatic change from Atlanta’s existing penalty for cannabis possession, which calls for up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000.

According to councilman Hall, who also is running for mayor of Atlanta, prosecuting low-level cannabis crimes it is a complete waste of civic funds that can have crushing effects on those arrested, from court costs to jail time. Then there’s the race problem.

“In Atlanta and in Fulton County, 93 percent of the arrests for small amounts of marijuana are the arrests of African-Americans,” Hall told WGCL-TV earlier this month, calling it “the most biased rate of arrests in the country.”

Further support for decriminalization comes from Georgia State University police chief Joseph Spillane, who told Channel 11 News  that his officers in Atlanta frequently handle cannabis possession cases on campus, and that they need the discretion to simply give citations to some offenders rather than arresting them.

Meanwhile, current Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed has told media that he remains conflicted about cannabis legalization, as he believes cannabis is a gateway drug. [Please consider using the “Is Cannabis a Gateway Drug? piece as an in-line story near this claim!] However, Reed has said that he also believes cannabis prohibition is a tool to disproportionately impact the poor and minorities.

Canada has basically decriminalized possession of cannabis for a while now. And with online dispensaries and storefronts opening everywhere there’s never a shortage of marijuana.

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