“I think this is a time when we’re all looking at criminal justice and policing in terms of how can we do better,” Elwood said. The punishment for possession of marijuana is disproportionate for people of color
Mayor Mike Bodker and opposing council members said they preferred to trust the city solicitor and judges with cases that include marijuana possession.
Family experiences played a role in positions for and against the measure. Coughlin said his father purchased marijuana out of state to help with physical pain and mental trauma that he has had since serving in the Vietnam War. Councilman Lenny Zaprowski said a cousin, who died from drug abuse, started on the path with marijuana.
“I’m probably too jaded to vote yes,” he said.
Coughlin proposed the decriminalization initiative in 2017. He said he didn’t pursue it more aggressively then because of a likely veto from Bodker.
The mayor again said he wouldn’t support decriminalization for reasons similar to Zaprowski, adding that he believes the responsibility to change the law lies with the state.
Other municipalities have begun to change their laws concerning small amounts of marijuana. Clarkston was the first Georgia city to pass a similar ordinance in 2016. Doraville passed a new ordinance earlier in August. Atlanta, Savannah, Augusta-Richmond County and Macon-Bibb County are among the large local governments that have passed local decriminalization ordinances.