TEMPLE, Ga. - The City of Temple voted down a controversial marijuana measure Monday night. It was a hotly contested issue of whether or not to reduce penalties for small possession of marijuana.
Members of the Temple City Council were deciding Monday night whether to update their ordinance to reduce the penalty for possession of one ounce or less from an arrest, an up to $1,000 fine and as many as 180 days in jail to simply a citation and a $75 fine.
"This is about removing the jail time. With the encouragement of the officer to write a citation versus arresting and booking that individual for that sole offense at the Carroll County Jail," said Council Member Penny Ransom, who introduced the measure.
"This is a city ordinance that will lessen the penalties. Anything that keeps people out of the cage, I'm going to support it," said Todd Rothwell, a city council member who represents Ward 3.
Rothwell is one of two council members who back the proposal. As a libertarian, he said, that he wants to see less government interference in people's lives. Others, however, do not agree with the idea.
"I'm highly opposed to it. I don't mind telling you and I think everybody pretty well knows my stance on it from the beginning," said Council Member Howard Walden. "My biggest concern is the wrong message that it's sending to our young people. I just, I think it's going to send the wrong message to them. It's gonna make it too easy for 'em to be in possession of marijuana. A $75 fine with no jail time, there's no repercussions, nothing on your record. You know, pretty much anybody, if they can buy an ounce of marijuana, they can afford a $75 fine."
After public input the council voted but because one council member recently died they could not reach a quorum. The vote was 2-2 which meant the ordinance did not pass. City rules prohibit the Mayor from casting a deciding vote on ordinances.
The measure may have failed but marijuana advocates with Georgia Care, campaign for access reform and education, say Temple is a sign of the times, since Atlanta is considering other pot options and Clarkston already has reduced penalties for pot.
"We've got hundreds of other cities that are looking at this, trying to see what the debate is. But again we appreciate Temple at least debating the issue," said James Bell, with the Georgia Care Project.
Despite the fact the vote effectively killed the effort's progress, Rothwell believes the issue will be back.
"I support this ordinance because I want to send a message to the lawmakers of this state--the people of the State of Georgia want this, they need it, they're coming after it," Rothwell explained.
Council Member Ransom said she will re-introduce the ordinance in the future.
Patrick Cline, a Temple resident who spoke in favor of the ordinance said he intends to run for the seat of the council member who passed away to among other things help in passage of the marijuana measure.