On Monday, the Atlanta City Council passed legislation unanimously, 15-0, to reduce possession penalties for less than one ounce of cannabis. The announcement was met with a rain of applause from constituents who had been hopefully waiting for the outcome.
Currently, if one’s caught in Atlanta with under an ounce, a fine of up to $1,000 is applicable as well as up to six months in jail. This new ordinance would squash the fines and jail time to a $75 ticket and no jail. This is a major accomplishment in pot politics and politics in general.
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City councilperson Kwanza Hall is attempting to follow Kasim Reed as the next mayor. He’s also been working on getting these penalties lowered since spring. He says that the legislation is necessary to combat the disparate numbers of black individuals being arrested for cannabis possession.
The numbers paint the picture. Though white and black Americans use cannabis at the same rate, in Atlanta alone, between 2014 and 2016, 92 percent of those arrested for cannabis were black and 85 percent male, according to the Racial Justice Action Center in East Point.
“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 many reforms that I have fought for.”
Council members are now primarily concerned with people knowing and understanding the new law and getting the word out to the entire Atlanta community.
“In fact, what I’ve said is I don’t want blood on my hands. I don’t want some college kid to think they are within their rights to possess marijuana in Atlanta, get arrested, resist arrest and, God forbid, the worst happens,” Councilperson Keisha Lance-Bottoms said.
The Atlanta City Council tweeted on Monday, “To everyone who came out in support of the legislation to reduce the penalties for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, we heard you. Motion passed unanimously 15-0.”