On April 18, 2017, members of the Atlanta City Council withdrew their support from Ordinance 17-O-1152, a statute that would have decriminalized marijuana in Georgia’s captial. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the council opted to refer the ordinance to the Public Safety Committee.
Under the proposed ordinance, the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana would only call for a maximum $75 fine. According to NORML, Georgia’s current law makes possession of marijuana in any amount illegal, with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana resulting in a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to a year in prison.
Council members listened to several Atlanta residents, many of whom waited over six hours, as they talked about how marijuana impacted their lives. Still, council members pulled out of passing the ordinance, “citing fear of moving forward without a strong implementation process between law enforcement personnel and the local administration.”
Michelle Wright, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance, saw the ordinance as an opportunity to build a relationship between minority residents of Atlanta and the city’s law enforcement. “Decriminalizing marijuana is an essential first step in ending the decades-long racial disparities in Atlanta’s criminal justice system – a system in which one in 13 adults (predominantly black) are under some form of correctional supervision, compared to the national average of one in 31,” Wright said.
African Americans make up 76% of Georgia’s current inmate population who are imprisoned for marijuana offenses, which is a big difference from the 21% of white inmates who are incarcerated for the same offense.
“Those figures are beyond unjust,” Wright added.