The city of Clarkston, known for its diversity and progressive politics, could become the first city in Georgia to decriminalize marijuana. The city is moving forward on a new policy that would allow police to issue fines rather than arrest those in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana.
Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry thinks a felony charge for marijuana possession does more harm than good.
“We need to be focusing on stopping violent crimes, stopping burglaries, and making our streets safer. Focusing on these low level, non-violent offenses just drains resources," Terry said. "And it also — it quite frankly ruins a lot of people’s lives."
Terry said it becomes nearly impossible for people to get jobs when they have a criminal record. He thinks city officials have a responsibility to protect citizens, and not condemn them.
Terry argues a law passed by the state legislature in 1983 gives "concurrent jurisdiction" to municipalities like Clarkston to deal with possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. This potentially means law enforcement has the discretion to treat that specific possession case however they see fit.
The policy being proposed by Clarkston officials would seek to train officers to give citations rather than make arrests. Terry said Clarkston is the city best poised to spearhead the effort in Georgia because the city council has been pushing the legislature for months.
Public committee meetings are scheduled for April, and a full council vote on the policy is expected in May.