At Issue: Is fining ounce-possession of marijuana right step?

Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana will now result in a $75 fine in Atlanta.

Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana will now result in a $75 fine in Atlanta.

Cannabis aficionados in Atlanta may find reason to celebrate.

Mayor Kasim Reed signed legislation that takes away jail time for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. But he was quick to admonish that it’s not the same a legalizing marijuana use.

“We need to send a clear message that marijuana is not legal in the state of Georgia,” Reed said.

Atlanta City Council unanimously passed the legislation on Oct. 2 after Councilman Kwanza Hall introduced the legislation in March.

The previous law allowed for a penalty of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail for anyone caught in possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. The new legislation lowers that to just a $75 ticket and no jail time.

City officials also point out that the ordinance does not legalize or decriminalize possession of marijuana. It addresses the disparity in the punishment for possession. Research shows that white and black Americans use marijuana at similar levels, yet black Americans are arrested and charged at higher rates, the mayor’s office said.

Opponents of legalization argue that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads users to harder and more addictive substances.

What do you think? Should law enforcement deprioritize the war on pot? Or is a slap on the wrist for a small amount of a drug likened to cigarettes and alcohol setting offenders on the path to the harder stuff?

Send responses to Comments may be edited for length and/or clarity and may be published in print and/or other platforms.


A social media uproar resulted when Cherokee County math teacher Lyn Orletsky told a couple of students at River Ridge High School to turn their “Make America Great Again” T-shirts inside out. Orletsky has been placed on paid administrative leave. What should the school board do when it meets Oct. 19?

Here’s what some readers had to say:

Lyn Orletsky should be allowed to go back to her classroom. At worst, the administrative investigation might show Orletsky exceeded her authority by ordering students to cease displaying their slogans in class. If so, dismissal is not a reasonable remedy. The school should have a consistent policy for how potentially disruptive student speech is handled in the classroom. With regard to Orletsky, this incident is a minor personnel issue. More broadly, the school has an obligation to teach civics to students. … Students wearing any Trump merchandise, at or away from school, is evidence the schools are failing to teach the basics of American government. – Vladimir Shklovsky

Anyone who has worked with high school kids understands that a teacher makes many judgment calls throughout a day at work. On Aug. 31, Ms. Orletsky made such a decision. Perhaps it was a mistake. But the school system reprimanded her and clarified the rights of the students, so that should be the end of it. Nobody was harmed and no deliberate breaking of rules occurred. So, why should she be fired for making one mistake? Those who are clamoring for her dismissal seem to be pushing their own political agenda. The school system should ignore all that and stand behind the rights of the teacher to make one mistake without losing her job. – Kathy Downey

(Orletsky) should be judged by her total teaching career and not one incident. If I recall the article, she was an exemplary career teacher. She was trying to make peace, not war. Because of this one judgment call, her reputation has been smudged. She was trying to be sensitive to all. – Joyce Vroon

It is my belief that the school system has handled this instance unprofessionally and irresponsibly. I do not know who made the decision to publicly humiliate and crucify this school teacher, but that decision was unacceptable and inappropriate. I am appalled that the Cherokee County School District felt the need to treat this lady the way they have thus far. She has received death threats. I dared to venture into the statements being made by some parents on social media about Ms. Orletsky. They are horrible and speak to the truth in what she said to those students. I believe all of this is on the school board and superintendent. As a parent of a student in the school system, I want the school board to issue an apology to Ms. Orletsky and reinstate her in the classroom. – R. Watson

The Cherokee County Board of Education has a responsibility to foster constructive public discourse and make civility, inclusion, diversity and empathy a priority in our schools. "Make America Great Again" has gone far beyond a political campaign slogan. It is used freely and habitually by hate groups. That reality matters to our kids in public school classrooms. Teachers face difficult decisions daily. Ms. Orletsky made a professional decision given her responsibility to all students to establish a safe environment for learning. She is strong math educator who should be in the classroom, for the benefit of all of our students. While addressing students' right to speech, Superintendent Hightower gave a swift and clear apology to the slogan-wearing students. Moving forward, I would ask Dr. Hightower and the Board of Education what additional steps they are taking to ensure that our schools are places where the right to speak is exercised in an environment of respect and difference. – Katie Terry

David Ibata for the AJC