Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed just signed an ordinance into law changing the penalty for possession of marijuana.
Reed, who’s in his second mayoral term, announced that he signed the bill on Tuesday night during a ceremony attended by politicians who helped push for the legislation.
Though weed is still illegal in Atlanta, the new marijuana ordinance reduces the penalty for individuals carrying less than 1 ounce from a maximum $1,000 fine to $75. It also eliminates jail time for those individuals and reduces punishment to a citation. The law only applies within city limits and is effective immediately.
“I am pleased to sign this ordinance, which eliminates jail time as a penalty for a conviction for possession of less than an ounce, into law. I also want to thank Councilmembers Keisha Lance Bottoms and Kwanza Hall for their work not only to pass this ordinance, but also to make sure our officers in the Atlanta Police Department receive the appropriate training,” Reed said in a press release.
“People of color, young and low-income people are disproportionately jailed ― with sentences up to six months ― for possessing small amounts of marijuana,” he continued. “An average of 1,000 people are arrested each year in Atlanta for possession only. We needed to change that. I believe our public safety resources are better directed to stopping and preventing violent crime.”
In the U.S., black people are up to four times more likely than white people to be arrested for weed-related crimes, despite using marijuana at a similar rate. Even in places where it is legal, black people are still twice as likely to be arrested for breaking the state’s weed laws.
Hall, a mayoral candidate, said the ordinance was a step in the right direction, per Alive11.
“While this is a significant step forward for all of Atlanta, and especially parents who fear their children may be jailed for what used to be an unjust marijuana law, it was also just a common-sense reform,” he said in a statement. “But while today’s signing is significant, we have more to do to address the many ways that ‘Broken Windows’ policing has unjustly and negatively impacted low-income people and people of color.”