In the wake of a recent move by the City of Clarkston, Georgia to reduce the harm of marijuana laws, numerous activists groups have joined forces to launch a “City by City Initiative” campaign.
The goal of the campaign is to use the discretionary power granted to municipal courts under Georgia state law to enact local legislation that eliminates arrest and incarceration for misdemeanor cannabis possession, which the state classifies as one ounce or less of marijuana.
In July of this year, the Clarkston city council passed an ordinance that recommends city police issue a written citation rather than arrest residents for a misdemeanor possession offense. The citation carries a $75 fine regardless of the number of offenses. Under Georgia state law, and in state courts, misdemeanor cannabis possession would normally result in a $1000 fine and up to one year in jail.
City by City was initiated by the Georgia CARE Project and developed with the help of other groups like Peachtree NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), and others.
According to James Bell, Director of the Georgia CARE Project, the campaign will empower local activists to bring cannabis law reform to the city level and will send a message to state legislators that we should no longer be willing to arrest and incarcerate Georgians for the possession of cannabis.
“Public opinions and attitudes have changed in Georgia and the nation,” Bell explains. “Cities that pass reform legislation and resolutions seeking change in marijuana laws will send a clear message to state lawmakers that there needs to be a public debate about why we continue to incarcerate people for small amounts of cannabis.”
A new Gallup poll says 60 percent of Americans support legal marijuana, which is now a record high in the poll’s 47-year history.
Georgia makes more than 30,000 arrests for marijuana each year. Many of these arrests are for small amounts. An arrest for marijuana threatens a person’s livelihood, negatively impacts their educational opportunities, and the arrest record can follow them throughout their lives.
The coalition of groups and activists will target various city councils across the state to determine which cities are next in line to follow the lead of Clarkston.
For more information, visit the website www.gacareproject.com