The Atlanta City Council members voted unanimously at 15-0 to pass a proposed rule to decriminalize marijuana. Currently, the law states that possession of weed within the city limits of Atlanta, Georgia is prohibited by a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment for up to half a year. The new law would eliminate prison time for less than an ounce and would reduce any potential fine to no greater than $75.
Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta, tweeted support for the new ordinance. The mayor stated that he looked forward “to reviewing and signing this legislation.” This decriminalization measure was sponsored by Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall, who will be running in the next election for mayor. Kwanza stated, “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 racist policy that unjustly incarcerated minorities by more than 90 percent.”
The racial disparities around the marijuana enforcement has been running rampant throughout the country. In Hall’s district, 92 percent of people swept up in the criminal justice system for weed arrests are African American. At the same time, only 17 percent of Hall’s constituents are black. In an interview with a local news station, Hall said, “Currently, we are seeing families torn apart. We’re seeing young people lose their scholarships, we’re seeing people become unemployable, all because of possession of less than an ounce. And primarily the neighborhoods, the zip codes, the people are people of color living in parts of our city that have been left behind, that have been neglected, and they are being penalized greater than anyone else.” Hall added, You’ve seen families broken up, and we’ve seen officers spend their time on this type of stuff when they could be focused on real things that keep our citizens safe.”
Following the vote, City Council President Ceasar Mitchell also expressed his support. “Our black and poor youth get caught in the criminal justice system possessing small amounts of marijuana,” Mitchell said. “Decriminalization is key.”
Council members will now turn their attention towards making sure people are informed as to how the law functions. Councilwoman Keisha Lance-Bottoms said, ““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.”