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Atlanta City Council Unanimously Approves Marijuana Decriminalization

Mayor Kasim Reed now has eight days to decide whether to sign the bill or slap it with a veto.

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Atlanta is one step closer to eliminating the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession.

On Monday, the Atlanta City Council unanimously approved a bill designed to decriminalize the possession up to an ounce of marijuana. The proposal, which was brought to the table earlier this year by Councilman Kwanza Hall, would allow officers to handle small time pot offenders with a $75 fine rather than dragging the them to jail.

As it stands, anyone in Atlanta busted for marijuana possession can be sentenced to up to a year in jail and forced to pay fines reaching $1,000. What’s worse is people’s lives are often marred long-term due to having a drug conviction on their record – resulting in the inability to secure and/or maintain gainful employment as well as suffering the loss of opportunities associated with continued education and housing.

“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 in a statement.  “Reforming the racist marijuana laws on the book in Atlanta has been just one in a number of reforms that I have fought for.”

Now that the full Council has approved the measure, it is up to Mayor Kasim Reed to decide whether the proposed ordinance becomes law. He has indicated that he plans on signing the bill, but the mayor has eight days to make a final decision on the matter.

If Reed signs the bill, however, marijuana would not become any less illegal throughout the city. In fact, the ordinance would only be in play out if an officer with the Atlanta Police Department makes the bust. State police, and even the local sheriff’s office would still be allowed to make cannabis possession arrest based on the state’s marijuana laws.