Another city in Georgia considers relaxing their stance on minor marijuana possession.
As many states around the country have started to relax their laws on marijuana as early as 2012, Georgia seemed to hold firm in its prohibition. However, over recent years, more and more counties within the state have started to also relax their laws. While recreational marijuana is not yet legal anywhere within the state, several areas are starting to decriminalize the drug.
Clarkston County passed its law decriminalizing marijuana in 2016. Now, other counties are starting to follow suit. The city of Chamblee is currently considering decriminalization, while Atlanta and Kingsland have already passed marijuana decriminalization laws.
Penalties Under the Old and New Laws
Under Georgia’s controlled substances statute, when a person is found with one ounce or less of marijuana, they can be charged with a misdemeanor. Although this sounds like a minor offense, it is not. A person convicted may still face a fine of $1,000 and spend up to one year in jail.
In the counties and cities that have already decriminalized marijuana, the penalties are far less. Jail time is typically not an option, and the fines are severely reduced. If marijuana is decriminalized in Chamblee, offenders would face a fine between $75 and $150, similar to receiving a traffic ticket.
Arguments for Decriminalization
There are many reasons that ten local jurisdictions throughout the state of Georgia have chosen to decriminalize simple marijuana possession. First and foremost, it means fewer innocent people are sent to jail every year. Under state law, someone could walk around a college campus with a joint in their pocket and spend up to one year in jail for it.
Not only is this practice unfair and proven to mainly target African-Americans and Latinos, it also clogs up the correctional systems, which are already overcrowded. That means more taxpayer dollars are being spent when no discipline or rehabilitation is even necessary.
Decriminalizing marijuana also allows law enforcement to place more focus on other crimes, such as violent offenses, that do real danger to others. When they are not chasing a group of teenagers or searching someone for small amounts of marijuana, they can concentrate more fully on individuals who pose a danger to society.
When Clarkston County first decriminalized marijuana, many thought it would result in chaos in the streets. Critics of the new law thought the county would become a haven for drugs. It has not. In fact, from July of 2018 to June of 2019, law enforcement in Clarkston only issued 37 citations for minor marijuana possession. During the same time period, Chamblee arrested 103 people on similar charges.
Are You Facing Drug Charges? Call Our Georgia Criminal Defense Attorneys
Although minor marijuana possession has been decriminalized in Atlanta, there are still a number of drug charges a person may face. If convicted of those charges, a person faces significant jail time and costly fines, in addition to a permanent criminal record. If you are facing charges, contact our Atlanta criminal defense attorneys at Ghanayem & Rayasam. We will provide you with the defense you need, ensure your rights are upheld at all times, and give you the best chance of a successful outcome. Call us today at (404) 561-0202 so we can start reviewing your case.