STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - New rules in Statesboro mean possession of marijuana might get you a ticket instead of being arrested.
An ounce or less of marijuana would land you a citation- a ticket- with a hefty fine and a court appearance instead of a jail cell. The vote comes after serious debate about how much punishment pot should bring.
City council heard strong arguments for and against making the punishment for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a citation rather than an arrest. Local addiction counselor Raymond Scott worries the softer punishment opens the door for people to use more often, as well as to use stronger drugs.
“I know, ‘if I get stopped with x amount of marijuana, I’m gonna get a fine and that’s it,’ I believe from a public health standpoint, that’s irresponsible,” Scott said.
Council member Sam Jones, who proposed the ordinance, says the citation, possibly as high as $500, helps first time offenders - especially young people- avoid an arrest and criminal record.
“I do not believe we should just 'knock them in the head and lock ‘em up.’ That is not the answer," Jones said.
Supporters pointed to the growing use of marijuana for medical treatment. City council members got an up close look at what an ounce of marijuana looks like, thanks to Police Chief Mike Broadhead, who brought what had been evidence in an old case. The chief asked council to consider giving officers the latitude to arrest in some cases. They opted not to. He says the new code will take some adjustment.
“In cases where a person is arrested on multiple charges, if possession of less-than-an ounce of marijuana is one of those charges and the case is headed for municipal court, that charge is not supposed to show on their criminal history,” said Chief Broadhead.
They hope the punishment is costly enough to stop them from using over and over, but not enough to cost them their future.