Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed signed historic legislation decriminalizing marijuana in the city late Tuesday evening. The new law states that possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana is now punishable by a $75 fine and no jail time. Previously possessing as little as a joint could lead to a fine of up to $1K and six months in jail.

This is historic for the city because being caught with the drug disproportionally affected Blacks in the city. In addition, persecution for marijuana possession filled both the city’s  budget and also its jails, while ruining the lives of many. There was some controversy on Tuesday night when the official Twitter handle of the Atlanta City Council erroneously stated that Mayor Reed had vetoed the pending legislation. Mayor Reed appeared on Atlanta radio station V-103 to make the announcement about his decision and said: “We need to send a clear message that marijuana is not legal in the state of Georgia.”

According to Atlanta City Council member Kwanza Hall, who pushed for the new law, “Ninety percent of the people who are in our jails for possession of marijuana are young African Americans. People are losing their jobs. People are losing their scholarships. Families are being torn apart for something that we should really be ashamed of. … Half of the country has awoken to this. It’s time for Atlanta to be awake as well. Atlanta has to be the leader in this conversation of justice reform. This is a fact. We’re not making up the numbers. You go over to the jail, what do you see?”

Atlanta now joins the metro area city of Clarkston, Georgia, which decriminalized possession of marijuana within its city several months ago. The state of Georgia this year initiated legislation that allows the use of low-THC cannabis oil to treat specific medical conditions.

Mo Barnes

"Mo Betta" Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician.