Marijuana Has Been “Decriminalized” in Atlanta. What’s That Really Mean?
Until just last week, those in possession of small amounts of marijuana in Atlanta faced jail time. Even less than an ounce could land you behind bars. Thanks to a new city ordinance, any person in Atlanta that is caught with less than a single ounce of marijuana won’t be facing any time in the clink. In short, possession of small amounts of weed has been decriminalized.
Mayoral candidate Kwanza Hall wrote the ordinance and introduced it to the city in March. After its passing, Hall said, “This is a moment of history for Atlanta. We have made positive progress.” While those in possession of the drug won’t face time in jail, it’s important to understand that this ordinance does not legalize marijuana in the city; it only reduces the penalties to those caught with small amounts.
Specifics of the New Ordinance
Instead of facing time behind bars, a person found to be in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, and found guilty of the offense, face a $75 fine. Prior to the new ordinance passing, those same people faced up to $1,000 fine and no more than six months in jail. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields points out that the new ordinance will allow her officers to concentrate on more serious crimes and stop focusing on petty ones.
The chief did say that she does not want the ordinance to confuse people. She, too, emphasized that the drug is still illegal in the city, but now officers will be able to use more discretion in arresting those found with under an ounce. The ordinance is not yet a law, but the mayor tweeted that he plans on making it so. The ordinance addresses only sentencing, but proponents are hopeful that it is just one step in the fight for legalization.
Potential Impact of the Ordinance
Those in favor of the new law are also waiting to see if the state will take heed and adopt it across all of its cities. People who possess such a small amount of the drug are not likely to have an impact on crime rates if they are arrested and thrown in jail, say those in favor of the law. Thanks to its passage, the ordinance will make it possible for police officers to put their attention to violent crimes throughout the city instead of tying up their time with reports for people possessing marijuana in small amounts.
If you are arrested for drug possession in Atlanta, it is important to understand that you are facing serious consequences. A drug conviction can have an impact on several facets of your life for the near future and beyond. You may find it difficult to secure housing, employment and more. Don’t fight for your rights on your own. You need the experience of a criminal defense attorney on your side. Call our office today to schedule an appointment for a case evaluation and let us advise you of your legal rights.