DeKalb’s largest city decriminalizes an ounce or less of marijuana

Stonecrest City Hall

Credit: City of Stonecrest

Credit: City of Stonecrest

Stonecrest City Hall

DeKalb County’s most populous city has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Pot is still illegal within the bounds of the city of Stonecrest. But the City Council’s unanimous Monday night vote means anyone caught with an ounce or less may receive a citation and a $100 fine, not jail time.

“For those that might be under the impression that it’s time to light ‘em up if we pass this, make it clear that this really doesn’t change anything in terms of the legality or illegality of consuming marijuana,” Councilman George Turner said. “All this does is lessen the penalty.”

City officials said the new law is “designed to minimize administrative costs by reducing the amount of time police officers spend in connection with the arrest, processing, and transportation of an individual accused of simple marijuana possession.”

Drug laws have also historically affected people of color at disproportionate rates. About 90% of Stonecrest’s nearly 60,000 residents are Black.

Stonecrest does not have its own police department. Officials said the city will partner with local law enforcement agencies like the DeKalb County Police Department to “train officers on the ordinance and review a list of options available to them” when a marijuana offense occurs within the city.

“In order to maintain public safety in Stonecrest, we must prioritize the best use of police resources and continue to build partnerships with residents within the community,” Mayor Jazzmin Cobble said in a news release.

“Under this new ordinance, the penalty provisions will reduce the number of people who enter into the criminal justice system on low-level offenses and allow our officers to focus on more severe violations.”

Stonecrest is believed to be the 14th Georgia jurisdiction to put such an ordinance in place. The nearby city of Clarkston put a similar ordinance in place in 2016, and other DeKalb County cities to decriminalize marijuana possession include Chamblee and Doraville.

Atlanta and South Fulton are also in the club. Athens passed its own decriminalization ordinance earlier this month.

Terry Fye is the Stonecrest resident who first brought the idea to the City Council. He thanked them Monday night.

“Across the board,” he said, “the entire community supports this.”