South Fulton Mayor Bill Edwards said he might be in favor of a proposal to decriminalize marijuana, but he wanted a higher fine than the one that was proposed. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com AJC FILE PHOTO

City of South Fulton to consider decriminalizing marijuana

In South Fulton on Tuesday, council members are scheduled to vote on a proposal that could decriminalize marijuana in the new city.

The proposal, sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Mark Baker, would mean it is still illegal for people to possess an ounce or less of marijuana in the city.

But if that is their only violation, they would not be subject to jail time — instead, they would face a maximum fine of $150. Half the money collected in fines would go to alcohol and drug rehabilitation and prevention programs that would benefit city residents.

Baker compared the change to the penalty for running a stop sign: it’s still illegal, but those who do it get a ticket instead of being arrested.

In his proposal, Baker said enforcement of the law prohibiting marijuana “has been inequitable and has fallen disproportionately on certain subsets of the population.” The city council wants to facilitate equity, it said.

During a discussion about the proposal last month, some members of council questioned whether the fine needed to be more punitive. Helen Zenobia Willis, the councilwoman who sought parental responsibility laws, said she understands the hardship it causes people to be in the criminal justice system, but decriminalizing “goes against everything I believe in.”

Councilwoman Rosie Jackson said she had a son who was arrested for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana.

“I agree with this,” she said of the proposal.

Other cities, too, have taken the step. In 2016, Clarkston passed a law reducing the fine for marijuana possession to $75. State law says it can be punished by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Last year, Atlanta passed similar legislation. The Fulton County government has also floated the idea, as has DeKalb County.

South Fulton will hold a town hall meeting Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the South Fulton Service Center, 5600 Stonewall Tell Road in College Park, before the Tuesday vote.

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