City council votes unanimously to reduce penalty for marijuana possession

The Atlanta City Council voted unanimously on Monday to dramatically reduce the penalty for marijuana possession and make it a non-arrestable offense.

The ordinance changes the penalty in the Atlanta Municipal code for possession of marijuana less than an ounce from the “general penalty” – which is a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail – to a maximum fine of $75 and no jail time.

City Councilmember Kwanza Hall sponsored the legislation and has been urging passage since early this year.

“Today we stand with every parent of Atlanta who is fearful of or has seen their children’s lives destroyed, or careers ruined because of a racist policy that unjustly incarcerated minorities by more than ninety percent,” Hall said. “Reforming the racist marijuana laws on the book in Atlanta has been just one in a number of reforms that I have fought for.”

A key fact presented during the debate is that in Atlanta, the overwhelming number of arrests for marijuana-related offenses are African Americans (92 percent), even though studies have determined usage is at similar levels across racial demographics.

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