A first and critical step in Atlanta, Georgia’s fight for cannabis reform was finalized yesterday, with a unanimous decision from the Atlanta City Council to decriminalize marijuana possession for up to one ounce of pot. The legislation has now been passed on to Mayor Kasim Reed, who is expected to sign the cannabis reform later this week. Even before Reed puts pen to paper, though, cannabis advocates and Atlanta residents are already hailing the successful City Council vote as the start of a much larger marijuana reform effort.
Almost immediately after the City Council filed their unanimous support for decriminalization, some of ATL’s most noteworthy musicians and celebrities took to social media to voice support for their city and appreciation for the Council members’ progressive action.
In a congratulatory Instagram post, Atlanta rapper, outspoken political activist and cannabis lover, Killer Mike spoke about the positive effects that ending widespread cannabis arrests will have on the city’s unfairly persecuted black youth.
Get all the facts b4 Y'all starting blowing publicity n shit lol. Congrats Atl City Council. With 93 % of arrests being young black men Y'all have truly showed Black Lives, Future and Freedom matters. Y'all have shown ya self to be Progressive and I further challenge y'all to push the progressive line as city council members and Any post ya hold. Bravo. Salutes in particular to @fortforatlanta (State Senator) for your campaign getting this on the table & @kwanzahall (council member for pushing the line on council. Although y'all are opponents in the Mayoral race I appreciate you men on the behalf of Atl. Thank U and thank The Progressives in the city that push the line!
“With 93% of arrests being young black men Y'all have truly showed Black Lives, Future and Freedom matters.” Killer Mike wrote. “Y'all have shown ya self to be Progressive and I further challenge y'all to push the progressive line as city council members and Any post ya hold. Bravo.”
Keeping in line with the social justice issues the legislation was crafted to address, Atlanta rappers 2 Chainz and Big Boi also took to social media to congratulate their city.
“This will save so many young people from bullshit charges that later haunt them.” 2 Chainz captioned an Instagram post detailing the Council’s vote.
If signed by Mayor Reed, the legislation will give police the discretion to hand out $75 civil tickets for possession of an ounce of weed or less, hopefully removing criminal charges, and the record they bring, from the situation entirely.
On the police side of things, Atlanta’s top cop, Chief Erika Shields, has voiced support for the decriminalization ordinance, but was quick to remind residents that cannabis is still illegal in the city, and to point out that the choice to ticket or arrest a possession stop will be up to the officers on the scene.
“I don’t want people arrested unnecessarily because they didn’t understand the law,” Shields said. “Marijuana is still illegal in Georgia. The ordinance addressed sentencing.”
With Atlanta’s police force already showing incredible amounts of racial prejudice in their pre-decriminalization marijuana arrests, it will be important to keep an eye on the city’s marijuana police encounters in the future, to see how often that discretion is actually exercised. So far, Atlanta police have given no reason for us to assume that they will choose leniency when given the choice between imprisoning young black men or letting them live free.
Even in the face of statistics clearly outlining the city’s use of marijuana arrests to lock up Atlanta’s young black residents, Shields is confident that her officers will be able to act justly and hand out tickets instead of jail time.
“We’re focused on violent crimes,” Shields said. “I’m not interested, a dime bag of weed is not going to change crime in this city.”