Atlanta has passed, and Mayor Reed has now signed, an ordinance supposedly decriminalizing the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. That’s great, right? Well, yes and no. The ordinance does not actually address the criminality/legality of possession of marijuana; only the penalties for doing so.
If, in the City of Atlanta, a City Police Officer catches you smoking or in possession of marijuana, he or she has a couple of options. You can be charged with violation of the city ordinance, and face a fine of $75. Alternatively, you could be charged with violating the state law, and face up to a year in jail (but likely probation) and a $1,000 fine. If you happen to be outside the city limits, though, you’re stuck with the state law violation. Also keep in mind that DUI of Marijuana (as opposed to alcohol) is untouched by this ordinance.
Marijuana is still a criminal offense in Georgia, and still illegal, even in Atlanta. The reduced penalty is a step in the right direction, and hopefully the State Legislature will start to feel some pressure to revamp the State laws. (After that, maybe the Federal statutes can be addressed as well!) Despite this positive step, the fact that we live and operate in a tiered system of overlapping jurisdictions and laws means that if the officer is in a good mood, maybe you get hit with a fine, but if he’s in a bad mood, you can still be charged with the harsher offense.
Don’t rely on politicians’ statements that marijuana is “decriminalized” when it’s not. Atlanta Magazine had a great article on the ordinance as well.
If you have questions, or have find yourself facing marijuana charges, please don’t hesitate to contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.