DeKalb’s largest city weighs marijuana decriminalization

Credit: City of Stonecrest

Credit: City of Stonecrest

About 90% of Stonecrest residents are Black

Officials in Stonecrest — DeKalb County’s most populous and most predominantly Black city — could soon decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The new ordinance put forth last month by Councilman George Turner would eliminate jail time for anyone caught with less than an ounce of pot. The offense would instead be punishable by a fine of up to $100.

About 90% of Stonecrest’s nearly 60,000 residents are Black. The City Council resolution accompanying the proposed ordinance says that the enforcement of marijuana laws has historically “been inequitable and has fallen disproportionately on certain subsets of the population” and the council “desires to facilitate equity in the administration of criminal justice.”

It also says that marijuana-related criminal convictions present “employment obstacles which marginalize broad swaths of the population.”

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Turner is listed as the ordinance’s sponsor, but he gave the credit to a constituent, Terry Fye, who initially raised the issue during a public comment period.

The councilman said he didn’t expect the matter to become a priority, but the city’s legal team quickly determined it would be “fairly simple” to draft legislation mirroring what several other local cities had already adopted.

The nearby city of Clarkston put a similar ordinance in place in 2016. Other DeKalb County cities to decriminalize marijuana possession include Chamblee and Doraville.

Atlanta and South Fulton are also among the 13 Georgia jurisdictions with such ordinances in place. Athens joined the club just last week.

Turner said fellow Stonecrest councilmembers have not raised any objections to the proposal. It could be voted on as soon as the council’s Aug. 22 meeting.