New legislation before the Atlanta City Council would make possession of small amounts of marijuana a citation-only offense.
The ordinance, from Council Member Kwanza Hall, would mean someone caught with less than an ounce of the drug would face a fine of up to $75, not jail time.
The proposal is similar to a law adopted in the town of Clarkston last July.
Atlanta City Council president Caesar Mitchell said the council isn’t attempting to greenlight marijuana use.
“What we’re trying to do is address the consequences, because the consequences are what’s creating this debilitating impact on our communities,” Mitchell said.
National studies show marijuana arrests disproportionately affect black users.
While advocates applauded the city council’s effort, some took issue with the fine amount.
“What we’re saying today is that $75 fines are a lot of money for people who are already in extreme poverty,” said Che Johnson Long, with the Racial Justice Action Center.
Long recommended the city repeal its law prohibiting small amounts of marijuana all together or offer a warning to violators for the first offense.
Council members worried about contradicting state law, which counts any amount of marijuana possession as a crime.
A version of the city ordinance could come up for a vote in the council’s Public Safety Committee as soon as next week.