Fulton County commissioners consider changes marijuana laws

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Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana may not immediately land you in jail in Fulton County.

A group of commissioners announced Wednesday that they plan to draft an ordinance that would change how possession is treated within their borders.

Instead of an immediate arrest, police would simply issue a citation to those caught with less than an ounce of marijuana. The punishment for that crime would likely be a $75 fine rather than jail time.

"From my perspective, this is simply a matter of common sense," said Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts, who supports the ordinance.  "It's common sense legislation."

The legislation comes after similar ordinance updates in Clarkston and the city of Atlanta.

Commissioners said the ordinance would help reduce the population inside the Fulton County Jail and save taxpayers money.  Currently, there are an estimated 2500 inmates in the jail at a cost of $77 per inmate per day.

The ordinance, however, might not have quite the impact the commissioners hope it would. Cityhood movements have carved away most of the unincorporated areas over which the county government has jurisdiction. Those cities have their own ordinances and police departments to enforce them, meaning the ordinance would only apply to a narrow area with just a few hundred residents.

"Mostly it's an industrial business area," explained District 2 Commissioner Bob Ellis. "So, I sort of question whether or not this would have a tremendous impact and it's not as far-reaching as on paper it might appear."

The commissioners behind the ordinance said it is still a work in progress, but they hope to present it to the full commission for a vote sometime before the end of March.