City of Clarkston Reduces Marijuana Penalty to 75 Dollars for Simple Possession
(APN) CLARKSTON — The City Council of Clarkston, Georgia, voted unanimously on Tuesday night, July 05, 2016, to lower simple possession of one ounce or less of cannabis (“marijuana”) to a 75 dollar fine with no jail time.
Harsh state law in Georgia allows for arrest and confinement of people for up to one year in jail, in addition to a one thousand dollar fine and the creation of a criminal record for simple possession.
Clarkston, Georgia, is the most ethnically diverse one square mile in the United States.
Immigrants fleeing war, poverty, persecution, and sexual exploitation have migrated to Clarkston to find a better life.
Unfortunately, Georgia’s marijuana laws have made life worse for some with heavy fines they cannot pay, and jail time for simple cannabis possession.
That was the motivation behind Mayor Ted Terry’s suggestion earlier this year to make cannabis a five dollar fine to reduce harm to citizens.
The Council Members decided on 75 dollars because, “If a fine is too low, it can be considered a De facto decriminalization,” Councilman Mario Williams said.
“Seventy five is still a lot of money and I hope a day will come when we can say we are not going to charge anyone a fine,” for simple possession, Councilman Awet Eyasu said.
Eyasu’s statement received applause from the public.
“The standard fine for simple possession was 600 or 700 dollars [in Clarkston], and for minimum wage workers that is close to a month’s salary,” Mayor Terry said.
The ordinance encourages police officers to use the municipal code of a 75 dollar fine with no threat of imprisonment for possession of one ounce or less.
Clarkston Police “have the discretion to charge someone under the City ordinance; or if there are other circumstances, they can be charged with a State charge of misdemeanor of less than one ounce of marijuana and that goes to State Court with a fine up to a thousand dollars,” Christine Hudson, Clarkston Police Chief, told APN.
The lower fine will reduce the harm caused to poor people; and the removal of possibility of arrest prevents people from losing their job and home.
“If you consider the way drug laws are enforced in this country and in this State, it disproportionately affects lower income communities and people of color even though the usage rates tend to skew more toward Whiter and more affluent,” Terry said.
In the City of Atlanta, during a four year period from 2012 to 2015 there were 11,593 arrests for possession of cannabis, Atlanta Progressive News has learned. Of those, a whooping 10,608 were African Americans.
This information comes from Atlanta police records provided to APN by Marshall Rancifer.
“At this point, with all the opioid epidemic, this ordinance is about harm reduction. And we need everyone to be educated about cannabis, which is an exit drug from dangerous pharmaceuticals,” Dr. Uma Dhanabalan, a national expert on cannabis medicine, explained to the Council, during public comment.
Previously, Dr. Dhanabalan attempted to educate the General Assembly.
“The plant has been around for over 10,000 years and has never killed anyone,” Dr. Dhanabalan told APN.
The Drug Enforcement Administration plans to decide sometime this year whether to change the federal status of marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug to another schedule, so more researchers can study the potential uses of the drug and doctors can write prescriptions.
This is good news for medical cannabis advocates, but anti-prohibition advocates want it descheduled like alcohol and tobacco.
“Rescheduling is to put it in Schedule 2, which is still a controlled substance. De-scheduling means you take it off all the controlled substance schedules and regulate it like alcohol and tobacco,” Dr Dhanabalan said.
Sharon Ravert, Executive Director,Peachtree NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), tells APN that her organization plans to take the Clarkston ordinance model to forty different municipalities in Georgia and present it to those City Councils.