• Atlanta mayor signs marijuana ordinance into law

    By: Dave Huddleston

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed signed a bill into law lessening the penalties for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

    The mayor's office said Reed signed the legislation into law Tuesday night.


    QUICK FACTS:

    • Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed signed marijuana ordinance into law Tuesday
    • The new legislation means anyone caught with less than an ounce of marijuana could face $75 fine and no jail time
    • Atlanta City Council mistakenly tweeted Wednesday morning that Reed vetoed the legislation. They later recalled that statement.
    • Not long after that mistake, Reed's communications director tweeted a picture of Reed signing the bill

    The Atlanta City Council tweeted on its verified account Wednesday morning that Reed had vetoed the marijuana legislation for less than one ounce. Less than 40 minutes later, they recalled the statement.

    Reed tweeted that he did not veto it, and went on V-103 to discuss the discrepancy further.

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

    Atlanta City Council Communications Director Dexter Chambers said via phone on V-103 that an intern tweeted the information, which was not approved by him as it should have been.

    “They have to run it by me and that was not done and I’m really upset,” Chambers said. “It’s a mistake on our part and it has nothing to do with politics."

    Reed told Chambers that he did not believe it and that they both knew it was indeed a "political stunt."

    “I think it was a political stunt, but I’m in a great mood today,” Reed said as they wrapped up.

    Atlanta City Council unanimously passed the legislation that would reduce the penalties for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana Oct. 2.

    Councilman Kwanza Hall introduced the legislation in March.

    [READ: Should less than an ounce of marijuana send you to jail?]

    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 1 ounce of marijuana. The new legislation lowers that to just a $75 ticket and no jail time.


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    “I am pleased to sign this ordinance, which eliminates jail time as a penalty for a conviction for possession of less than an ounce, into law. I also want to thank Councilmembers Keisha Lance Bottoms and Kwanza Hall for their work not only to pass this ordinance, but also to make sure our officers in the Atlanta Police Department receive the appropriate training,” Mayor Reed said. “People of color, young and low-income people are disproportionately jailed – with sentences up to six months – for possessing small amounts of marijuana. An average of 1,000 people are arrested each year in Atlanta for possession only. We needed to change that. I believe our public safety resources are better directed to stopping and preventing violent crime.”

    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.

    Hall said in the past that the issue was a racial one.

    “Ninety percent of the people who are in our jails for possession of marijuana are young African-Americans,” Hall said. “People are losing their jobs. People are losing their scholarships. Families are being torn apart for something that we should really be ashamed of.”

    "Half of the country has awoken up to this. It's time for Atlanta to be awake as well," Hall said.

    Hall said the laws disproportionately affected minorities.

    “Atlanta has to be the leader in this conversation of justice reform,” Hall said. "This is a fact. We're not making up the numbers. You go over to the jail, what do you see?"

    Where does this ordinance apply?

    The new legislation changes the penalties for people within the city of Atlanta. Here are the city lines:

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