DeKalb’s smallest city favors citations over arrests for minor marijuana cases

Pine Lake police

Credit: Pine Lake Police Department

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Pine Lake police

Credit: Pine Lake Police Department

The leaders of DeKalb County’s smallest city passed a law Tuesday that barred its police officers from making arrests for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Police in Pine Lake, which only has about 750 residents, will now issue a ticket rather than make an arrest for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. The new law doesn’t apply if the suspect is also accused of an arrestable offense, such as a DUI or an assault.

Mayor Melanie Hammet told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the city’s police department, which consists of four full-time police officers, already abided by this practice, but Tuesday’s ordinance puts it in writing. Several DeKalb County cities already have a similar law.

“This is not really a controversial thing in our community,” she said. “It’s something that a lot of other cities in the metro area have addressed. We feel that we need to catch up in terms of codifying it and not just having the practice.”

Hammet said the ordinance was initially proposed by a former councilmember last year, but it ended up being tabled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Georgia law allows cities to throw out cases where a person is charged with possessing an ounce or less of marijuana, and several metro Atlanta district attorneys decline to prosecute those cases.

ExploreDeKalb County is latest to begin dismissing marijuana cases

In addition to raising the bar for when an arrest can be made, the ordinance also decreased the maximum fine for misdemeanor marijuana possession to $75. The statewide maximum is $1,000.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council made one amendment to the wording of the ordinance. The phrase, “No person shall be arrested solely for violating this ordinance,” was added before language that prohibited confinement for any period of time for misdemeanor marijuana possession cases.

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