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Atlanta Decriminalizes Marijuana – “In the weeks leading up to this, there has been all this emphasis on decriminalization and legalization, and that is not what the ordinance is,” said Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields. “The ordinance is not written requiring anything different of law enforcement. The ordinance strictly deals with the city courts and municipal court and their fine process.”

In case you were getting your hopes up: this is far more about the kinds of penalties that people picked up for weed-related offenses in Atlanta, Georgia, will see. The drug is still considered illegal in the state of Georgia, pointed out Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall, whose running for Mayorship: “Georgia law does not allow us to legalize marijuana possession.”

That said, the new ordinance will drastically reduce punishment for crimes that the city’s politicians and police force consider to be relatively minor. For those possessing one ounce of pot or less, penalties will be drastically reduced: fines will be lowered from $1,000 to merely $75 per offense. As a city council news release on the matter points out, it will also “dramatically reduce the penalty for marijuana possession and make it a non-arrestable offense.”

The benefits of this kind of decriminalization program are fairly far-reaching. It’ll allow police to focus on more serious, violent crimes rather than petty criminal infractions that don’t cause any harm to others. It will also mean that police won’t have as much incentive to bust people for small-scale possession due to much smaller fines and no associated jail time. For those carrying, it’ll mean less potentially disastrous ramifications for smoking a joint: jail time and large fines are no small matter. It’ll also save the tax payers’ dime, with less money going into policing, prosecution, and jail time.

While it’s not legalization, it’s certainly something. Congratulations to Atlanta on their new ordinance!