By now most people have heard that the Mayor has approved reforms regarding the penalty for marijuana possession in the City of Atlanta. I have found that most people have no idea what this new legislation means and how it will affect them. Below is a brief guide of what you should know:
Marijuana is legal in Atlanta, right?:
You have probably seen articles stating that Atlanta has decriminalized marijuana. I am sorry to disappoint you Cheech, but you cannot lawfully smoke (or otherwise consume) marijuana in Atlanta. The “new law” changes the penalty for the city ordinance of possession of marijuana less than one ounce to where now the maximum penalty is a seventy-five dollar fine. Therefore, it is still against the law. You won’t see dispensaries opening up and it’s unlikely that you will see law enforcement turn a blind eye on enforcing marijuana laws in the City of Atlanta.
So I can’t go to Jail for Marijuana anymore in Atlanta?:
Yes, you can (and probably will) go to jail for possession of Marijuana in Atlanta. This will be the source of much confusion. I can easily imagine a scenario where a polite young man (or woman) is stopped caught with a small amount of marijuana in Atlanta then is shockingly taken to jail! (Que the emphatic “I know my rights” and “you can’t do this”). Sadly, as it stands now, they are lawfully allowed to arrest you for possession of marijuana.
When law enforcement cites or arrests an individual on an infraction of the law, they can charge you with a State law violation or a city ordinance violation. The State law violation of possession of marijuana still carries twelve (12) months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine. The city ordinance has now been amended to only carry a $75.00 fine. Thus, what is very important to know is which violation will you be charged with in the City of Atlanta local ordinance or if you will be charged with a violation of State law.
Therefore, this may be a step in the right direction. However, it is too early to tell how this will be enforced. If you have been arrested for possession of marijuana in Atlanta, call me, an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer to discuss the facts of your case.