Legislation introduced Wednesday by a state senator would eliminate the charge of felony marijuana possession in Georgia law, and reduce the crime to a misdemeanor.
Senate Bill 254, would not legalize the possession or selling of marijuana, said bill sponsor Sen. Harold Jones II. But the legislation would eliminate the severe penalties that can come with a felony arrest and conviction, such as the suspension of voting rights and loss of eligibility for food stamps, he said.
“This is an opportunity to give Georgians hope that they won’t lose so many benefits” said Jones, D-Augusta, a former solicitor general for Richmond County. “… the cost of regulating marijuana as a felony outweighs the negligible benefits.”
Currently, possession of more than one ounce of marijuana is classified as a felony in Georgia. Jones bill for misdemeanor classification does not include a possession amount. If it is determined that the marijuana is intended for personal use, the reduced sentencing would apply, Jones said.
Marijuana possessions would still be a criminal offense under Jones’ bill, and people found in violation of the law could still be arrested. If convicted, the bill calls for punishment of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, or a year of community service.
A separate bill likely to be filed in the state House would also reduce marijuana possession to a misdemeanor, but people found in possession of the drug would only be issued a citation but not arrested.