- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Atlanta City Council has unanimously voted to decriminalize marijuana, eliminating jail time for individuals caught with less than an ounce, assuming Mayor Kasim Reed signs the bill as expected.

City council members voted 15-0 in favor of decriminalizing marijuana Monday, all but making Atlanta the latest major U.S. city to roll back penalties for individuals caught possessing small amounts of weed.

Mr. Reed, a Democrat, tweeted Monday evening that he intends to sign the bill into law.

Introduced in March by Councilman Kwanza Hall, the bill significantly reduces penalties for individuals caught with under an ounce of marijuana, a plant outlawed by the federal government but legalized in several states throughout the country and counting.

Individuals caught with up to an ounce of marijuana currently face up to six months behind bars and being fined up to $1,000 under Georgia state law. Atlanta’s decriminalization measure would eliminate the possibility of jail time and reduce any potential fines to a maximum of $75 if signed as expected, effectively making minor marijuana possession a citation on par with a traffic ticket.

Marijuana is about equally popular among black and white populations, yet roughly nine out of 10 people arrested and charged with possession in Atlanta between 2014 and 2016 were African-African, according to the Racial Justice Action Center — “the most biased rate of arrests in the country,” Mr. Hall said previously.

“Currently, we are seeing families torn apart. We’re seeing young people lose their scholarships, we’re seeing people become unemployable, all because of possession of less than an ounce. And primarily the neighborhoods, the ZIP codes, the people are people of color living in parts of our city that have been left behind, that have been neglected, and they are being penalized greater than anyone else,” Mr. Hall told V-103, a CBS-owned radio station.

“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 90 percent,” he said following the bill’s passage Monday.

Eight states and the nation’s capital have legalized recreational marijuana since 2012, meaning adults there can legally possess, grow and share limited amounts of weed without risking jail time. Five of those states — Colorado, Washington state, Oregon, Alaska and Nevada — currently allow adults to purchase retail weed from licensed recreational marijuana dispensaries. Similar pot shops are slated to open up next year in California, Maine and Massachusetts, notwithstanding the federal government’s longstanding prohibition on pot.

Georgia hasn’t legalized recreational marijuana, however, nor is it among the 29 states and counting where physicians can legally recommend medical marijuana to patients who are inflicted with certain conditions.

A handful of major cities in states without recreational marijuana laws — including Dallas, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Nashville — have separately approved legislation in the last several years decriminalizing possession similar to the effort passed by the Atlanta City Council this week.

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