On October 11, Atlanta City Mayor Kasim Reed signed an ordinance that decriminalized marijuana sending a powerful statement to state lawmakers. Georgia has some of the most punishing marijuana laws in the country and according to a 2013 American Civil Liberties Union study, blacks were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested than whites in the state and that number had increased 71% from 2001 to 2010.Georgia also ranked number four for the highest number of marijuana arrests for black people in the country.
So what’s next for Atlanta? Marijuana is still illegal, but based upon ordinance 17-0-1152 section 106, the perception of marijuana has changed when it comes to the amount less than an ounce. Yes, a whole 28 grams. It sounds minor but this is a major statement for the city of Atlanta and its surrounding counties and states. See, an ounce of marijuana has a street value of $25 to $450 depending on its quality and your location within the United States. But this ordinance is about Atlanta, the home of southern high-end luxury and cannabis consumers willing to spend big bucks in the illegal market.
So what’s this new ordinance all about? First off, it reduces the possession penalty to $75 and you will not receive any jail time within the city limits of Atlanta, which does include some parts of DeKalb, Fulton and Cobb County. But since the law has always controlled the lesser man there are still some foggy areas surrounding this new ordinance. One of those concerns that come to mind is, what can happen when a person is dealing with a police officer other than a city of Atlanta officer when in possession of marijuana because under this new ordinance a state trooper can still send you to state court with a criminal conviction. While a city officer can send you to Atlanta city court and you will not have a criminal conviction.
Secondly, with marijuana being very proximate and heavily promoted among millennials, what’s the deal when it comes to college campuses, At schools like Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Morehouse, and Spellman, campus police still work for the state, not the city of Atlanta. So situations like this are still up in the air and will continue to give off a big what if and huge why is that, going forward.
Also, it is still illegal to be under the influence of marijuana and drive behind the wheel of a vehicle. and with this new ordinance, the Atlanta police are still able to use discretion to arrest someone in possession. And you better not have any other charges along with a possession of less than an ounce, like fleeing from an officer because you will be taken into custody
So with marijuana still being illegal but attaching to it weaker possession penalties, families will continue to be fed, money will continue to rain down in nightclubs and automobiles will continue to be bought.
It will also save the state money. The ACLU study found that in 2010 the state of Georgia spent $58 million on police to enforce marijuana possession, $44 million on judicial and legal costs and $19 million on corrections. It is in the top ten list of states for spending the most on marijuana enforcement.
So with that being said, this new ordinance towards marijuana has set a new tone and direction for Atlanta but we must admit many areas are still unknown. But one thing this new ordinance is telling us is that those in authority do know people in Atlanta possess marijuana. So smoke on, but be safe and remember Atlanta isn’t California yet!