Valley residents react after Atlanta decriminalizes marijuana

Valley residents react after Atlanta decriminalizes marijuana
(Source: Sharifa Jackson/WTVM)
(Source: Sharifa Jackson/WTVM)
(Source: Sharifa Jackson/WTVM)
(Source: Sharifa Jackson/WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Bring up the topic of marijuana and it opens up a can of worms and an assortment of opinions.

Decriminalizing marijuana, currently a hot topic in Atlanta.

The Atlanta City Council unanimously passed legislation Monday, that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The new ordinance eliminating jail time and reducing penalties.

Now, this sentiment is being reviewed in counties all around the state.

"It's not as heavy as a sentence because it is not a gateway drug like people thought it was. Decriminalize it, get people out of jail if it is not a serious drug," said Tenisha Holley, a student at Columbus State University.

"It should just be the same everywhere, all states should have the same rules, especially when it comes to drug paraphernalia," said Anthony Chestnut of Columbus.

"There are bigger things to worry about, I think right now that people with, an ounce of marijuana," said Alexis Hynes, who also attends CSU.

In Atlanta, a unanimous and historic vote by council members looking to decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana.

Offenders now required to pay a fine up to $75 and eliminates the previous jail stint that could be up to 6 months.

"When they get arrested their lives are changed forever, can't go to college, can't get financial aid, can't get a job," Atlanta Council member, said Vincent Fort.

Atlanta Councilors also hoping this new ordinance will reduce violent crimes in the city, and help with the overcrowding of jails.

In Columbus, while the county is dealing with above average jail count numbers, Major McCrae of the Muscogee County Sheriff's office says it's not due to misdemeanor drug-related crimes.

McCrae says there are less than five inmates currently behind bars facing misdemeanor drug-related charges.

"We have over a thousand inmates in the jail, only have three people there awaiting court on misdemeanor drug charges," said McCrae.

While jail numbers do not show the need for the decriminalization of pot in the Valley, many believe attention should be placed elsewhere.

"I feel like police officers can focus on other things, bigger things, like burglaries. There are bigger things to worry about," said Hynes.

It's important to note that this change in Atlanta's new ordinance does not make it legal to possess marijuana.

Marijuana remains illegal in the state of Georgia.

Unlike in Oregon, California, Maine, and Massachusetts where it is legal.

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