Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed signed a measure Tuesday decriminalizing marijuana in Atlanta. The measure will reduce the penalty for possessing an ounce or less of pot in the city from $1,000 to $75 and eliminate jail time under those circumstances.
Atlanta mayoral candidate and District two City Council Member Kwanza Hall called this a “common sense reform” and concluded by saying “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.”
We still have a far way to go statewide as well. People of color can be five times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana-related charge, despite data saying that people of color and white people use pot at about the same rate.
Medical marijuana in Georgia is still illegal and children and adults are still suffering. Georgia’s slow track to medical marijuana legalization is highlighted by the passing of Haleigh’s Hope Act back in 201,5 which was intended to give patients that have certain ailments safe access to low-THC cannabinoid oil. But because the teeth were taken out of the legislation by Gov. Deal and other conservatives with pharmaceutical industry ties, Haleigh’s Hope has failed to make much of a difference in the lives of Georgia patients.
State officials cite its “Schedule One” classification by the federal government as Georgia’s reason for neglecting it’s proven medicinal properties. However, considering the way Georgia government works, the reasons might be more about money.
In 2014, when Gov. Deal refused to support medical marijuana, in favor of costly clinical trials, Better Georgia found that pharmaceuticals had a lot to gain by slowing marijuana legalization.
If we are ever going to see people helped by marijuana, instead of hurt by it, Georgia needs to follow Atlanta’s lead and start making more progressive marijuana policy. Politicians like Gov. Deal need to consider their constituents needs above the desires of their contributors.