Atlanta City Council votes to ease marijuana penalties

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The Atlanta City Council has voted unanimously to reduce the penalty for marijuana possession from a jail penalty to a fine for anyone caught by police with less than one ounce of the drug.

The issue went before the council Monday afternoon in downtown Atlanta.

City Councilman Kwanza Hall, who sponsored the measure, said the vote passed 15-0.

“Reforming the racist marijuana laws on the book in Atlanta has been just one in a number of reforms that I have fought for,” Hall was quoted as saying in a release sent to FOX 5 News.

Among other things, Hall said he is concerned about young people who have been incarcerated and have their lives impacted for years. He said it makes it hard for them to get a career started and move forward.

The Atlanta Police Department threw their support behind the move. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said she wants her commanders to concentrate on big issues and not small crimes.

Under the proposal, a violator would be subject to a citation that carries a $75 fine and no jail time. The current penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

Mayor Kasim Reed would still need to sign off on the new law.