Will Atlanta's marijuana decriminalization vote set a tone for other GA cities?

Will Atlanta's marijuana decriminalization vote set a tone for other GA cities?

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A marijuana decriminalization bill advances in Atlanta. City council's public safety committee already approved the bill and it moves to the full council on Oct. 2.

To reiterate, this movement is to decriminalize, not legalize. The law would only apply in the Atlanta city limits. But could a decision like this in the state capital change the game for the entire state?

"If Atlanta does it, I don't see why Savannah won't," said John Porter.

Porter works in a smoke shop downtown. He says he doesn't promote smoking weed, but he believes there are bigger problems in Savannah.

"It costs our taxpayers lots of money to put someone in jail for a year. And that's not necessary when like I said, we have so many higher crimes," Porter said.

The decriminalization would drop the fine for an ounce or less from, what's now $1,000 to $75. It also wouldn't require jail time which costs about $30 per day. That's almost $11,000 annually for taxpayers per one inmate.

For local law enforcement, lowering the consequences might mean raising dangers.

"The concern would be increased use of marijuana. How would you enforce that type of thing and what other types of effects - taking these steps - have towards other types of criminalities as a result of it," said Hinesville Police Lt. Tracey Howard.

One of those concerns is increased driving fatalities.

"I think that would also contribute to an increased possibility of folks driving under the influence of marijuana," Lt. Howard said.

If Atlanta signs off, city officials in Savannah say their rules still hold. Possession of any amount of marijuana is still a crime. A crime where stakes are still pretty high.

I spoke with Savannah City Manager Rob Hernandez earlier Thursday afternoon. He says all decisions would need to be addressed to the council first, but in his time in office, the decriminalization of marijuana in cities is becoming a theme.

WTOC will keep you updated on Atlanta's final vote that will take place this Monday, Oct. 2.

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