ATLANTA – Fulton County has become the latest metro Atlanta government to decriminalize marijuana.
Those arrested for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana could face no jail time and a fine of no more than $75 under the change, which the commission approved by a vote of four to one.
The change affects unincorporated Fulton County, which currently encompasses the Fulton Industrial District.
“We see this ordinance as an opportunity to encourage other municipalities to support similar legislation regarding penalties for possession,” says Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts, who co-sponsored the legialtion. “The goal is to have common sense penalties for these crimes.”
Penalties for additional arrests for misdemeanor possession would increase with each additional arrest. Subsequent offenses would have a mandatory minimum fine schedule of $150 for a second offense, $300 for a third offense, $450 for a fourth offense, and for all subsequent offenses, a mandatory minimum fine schedule of $500 and may include imprisonment for up to 60 days in jail.
“A singular, minor mistake should not forever tarnish someone’s future,” said another co-sponsor, Commissioner Marvin S. Arrington, Jr. “This ordinance is a small step to making sure that is reflected in the law.”
“With all of the issues facing young people in our county, the prospect of their futures being forever damaged by one mistake is something we should avoid,” said Commissioner Natalie Hall. “This will allow law enforcement to use their time to focus on more serious crimes that keep our citizens safe. The City of Atlanta and other jurisdictions have taken similar steps, and we believe others should follow this example, too."
Offenders under the age of 21 will be required to appear in court and may be ordered to drug treatment. Violators who are 21 or older must appear in court after a third offense and may be ordered into drug treatment.