Atlanta police chief on new pot law: 'Marijuana is still illegal'

ATLANTA — Atlanta City Council voted to approve a new ordinance that reduces the penalties for people caught with less than an ounce of marijuana.

The new law would eliminate jail time for those convicted of the offense.

“We’re overjoyed,” said Atlanta City Council member and mayoral candidate Kwanza Hall, who drafted the ordinance and introduced it in March.

“This is a moment of history for Atlanta,” Hall said. “We have made positive progress.”

The ordinance would reduce the penalties for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana from a $1,000 fine and six months jail time to just a $75 fine and no jail time.


“Of course, marijuana is still illegal in our state,” Hall said. “But to make it a non-jailable offense is a step in the right direction.”

Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said this new ordinance will allow her officers to concentrate on eliminating violent crime instead of focusing on petty ones.

“We’re focused on violent crimes,” Shields said. “I’m not interested, a dime bag of weed is not going to change crime in this city.”

Shields did say that, under this ordinance, her officers still have the discretion to arrest people caught with the less than an ounce of marijuana on them.

“I don’t want people arrested unnecessarily because they didn’t understand the law,” Shields said. “Marijuana is still illegal in Georgia. The ordinance addressed sentencing.”

Hall hopes the state of Georgia will look at adopting this ordinance, too.

Mayor Kasim Reed must still sign the bill to make it law, but he indicated in a tweet that he intended to do that.