- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The mayor of Atlanta has signed an ordinance decriminalizing marijuana, rolling back penalties for individuals caught with under an ounce of pot and adding Georgia’s largest city to the growing list of locales defying federal weed laws.

Kasim Reed, a second-term Democrat, signed the ordinance into law Tuesday evening, effectively eliminating jail time for people caught with less than an ounce of marijuana and instead making minor possession punishable by a fine of $75 — a fraction of the $1,000 penalty otherwise allowed under Georgia state law.

The Atlanta City Council unanimously approved the ordinance by a vote of 15-0 earlier this month, and Mr. Reed said at the time he planned to sign it. Confusion surrounding the bill’s status nonetheless erupted Wednesday morning, however, after the City Council’s official Twitter account erroneously tweeted that Mr. Reed had vetoed the legislation overnight.

The City Council recalled the tweet less than an hour later. Dexter Chambers, the council’s communications director, has since blamed the post on an unidentified intern.

“They have to run it by me and that was not done and I’m really upset,” Mr. Chambers told a local radio station early Wednesday. “It’s a mistake on our part and it has nothing to do with politics.”

“I think it was a political stunt, but I’m in a great mood today,” Mr. Reed responded.

Kwanza Hall, a Democratic council member who sponsored the ordinance, called the mayor’s autograph a “significant step forward for all of Atlanta, and especially parents who fear their children may be jailed for what used to be an unjust marijuana law.”

About nine out of 10 people arrested and charged with marijuana possession in Atlanta between 2014 and 2016 were black, according to the Racial Justice Action Center — “the most biased rate of arrests in the country,” Mr. Hall said previously.

“Today is a victory for grassroots organizers who fought tirelessly and created the momentum for us to deliver for the people,” Mr. Hall said Wednesday. “But while today’s signing is significant, we have more to do to address the many ways that ‘broken windows’ policing has unjustly and negatively impacted low-income people and people of color.”

Most of the states in the U.S. have passed laws legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use, but Georgia isn’t one of them. By decriminalizing weed, however, individuals caught with small amounts of pot within Atlanta city limits may skirt both state and federal anti-weed laws by relying on the newly authorized local ordinance.

Other major cities that have passed local laws decriminalizing marijuana possession include Dallas, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Nashville.

Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and D.C., and recreational, or “adult use,” marijuana, is currently allowed in eight states and the nation’s capital, including five where the plant can be legally purchased from state-regulated dispensaries.

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