DeKalb County

Another metro Atlanta city decriminalizes marijuana possession

FILE - This Aug. 15, 2019 file photo shows a marijuana plant in an indoor cannabis farm in Gardena, Calif. A survey released on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019 says U.S. college students are using marijuana at the highest rates in 35 years. Marijuana use continues to be higher in college-age adults than any other age group. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — The city of Chamblee is the 11th local government in Georgia to decriminalize the possession of marijuana.

The City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday night eliminating the possibility of jail time and severely reducing the fine for possessing one ounce or less of weed. An adult caught with marijuana by a Chamblee police officer will be cited and fined $75 for their first offense, according to the ordinance. That charge can be paid online and a court date isn’t required.

The DeKalb County city previously defaulted to state law for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, which is classified as a misdemeanor. Punishment under state law could be up to one year of jail time or a $1,000 fine. An ounce of marijuana can make up to about 40 joints, according to online resources.

“For me, this isn’t about whether smoking marijuana is right or wrong, it’s about preventing people from entering the criminal justice system and having their lives ruined over a simple possession charge,” said Brian Mock, the Chamblee councilman who proposed the change in city code.


According to ReformGeorgia, a statewide advocacy group that tracks criminal justice reform issues, 10 other cities or counties have passed similar ordinances, including some large municipalities like Atlanta, Savannah and Macon-Bibb County. Clarkston was the first city in the state to pass a decriminalization law in 2016.

“This is indicative of the broader change of attitude throughout the state that we do not need to be locking up individuals because of minor drug violations, especially for marijuana, and that the state needs to take comprehensive measures to protect all Georgians from needless entry into Georgia's already crowded criminal justice system,” Maxwell Ruppersburg, the group’s executive director, said in a statement about Chamblee’s ordinance.

Studies have shown that black and Latino people are more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, though usage is about the same across racial groups, experts say.

Mock said the change in the law will also save the city time and money.

“It takes a lot of manpower to arrest, transport, process and detain a prisoner, not to mention the court process to follow,” he said.

Municipal rules can’t impact every case involving weed. If someone is charged with marijuana possession on top of a more serious criminal offense, the case has to go to state court and the defendant would be subject to the harsher penalties.

This article was written by J.D. Capelouto, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to ReformGeorgia, these are the 11 cities and counties in Georgia that have decriminalized the possession of marijuana:

  • Clarkston
  • Atlanta
  • Savannah
  • South Fulton
  • Fulton County (unincorporated)
  • Forest Park
  • Statesboro
  • Kingsland
  • Fairburn
  • Macon-Bibb County
  • Chamblee
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