Changes to ATL’s marijuana possession fines headed back to Council vote

The effort to lower fines and eliminate jail time for small amounts of marijuana in Atlanta is headed back to a vote by the Atlanta City Council.

The legislation, by Atlanta City Councilman and Atlanta mayoral hopeful Kwanza Hall, was passed by the Council’s safety committee on Tuesday and sent to the full Council for a vote on Oct. 2.

The legislation would reduce the fine for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from $1,000 to no more than $75. Jail time for possession of an ounce or less of pot would be eliminated instead of the current guideline of up to six months.

Backers of the changes say it will address disparities in incarcerations of African Americans. Blacks make up 92 percent of those jailed by the city of Atlanta on marijuana possession, Hall’s office said.

“Our current policy destroys lives,” Hall said in a statement. “It tears apart families, causes students to lose scholarships, and renders a generation of young people unable to get a job. We waste millions of taxpayer dollars on arresting, trying and jailing marijuana offenders.”

It’s the second time the Council will take up the matter after declining to vote on it in April because of concerns there had not been enough input from police, judges and Atlanta Public Schools officials.

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