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ATL Police Chief Shields: pot still illegal in city despite law change

Atlanta Police Chief Erica Shields said Tuesday that marijuana possession is still illegal in the city of Atlanta, despite a move by the Atlanta City Council on Monday to lower fines and eliminate jail time for those caught with small quantities of the drug.

“In the weeks leading up to this, there has been all this emphasis on decriminalization and legalization, and that is not what the ordinance is,” she said. “The ordinance is not written requiring anything different of law enforcement. The ordinance strictly deals with the city courts and municipal courts and their fining process.

“The concern we have is to get this messaging right,” she said.

The current proposal would mean a $75 fine for people caught with less than an ounce of marijuana.

The City Council unanimously passed an ordinance sponsored by Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall that reduces the fine for possession of an ounce or less of pot from up to $1,000 to a maximum of $75. Jail time for possession of the same amount was eliminated, compared to the six months under previous law.

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The change, however, did not make possession of the drug legal, Shields said.

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