SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - This year’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival will be the first one since the City of Savannah adopted an ordinance that softens the penalty for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana.
Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher says this year’s festival won’t be any different than years past if his deputies catch you with an ounce or less of pot.
“My deputies are going to arrest them and bring them to jail for possession of marijuana under the OCGA 16-13-2(b), regardless of the amount,” the sheriff said.
It’s the position Sheriff Wilcher has taken ever since the ordinance was proposed by city leaders over a year ago.
“That’s just the way I feel about it,” he said. “I’m a constitutional officer, and I’m bound by the law to uphold the law.”
City leaders say the measure gives Savannah Police officers discretion and the option to write a citation for possession under a certain amount instead of taking someone to jail. For the half of the year the ordinance was in effect last year, SPD officers wrote 187 citations. As of last month, officers have already written half that amount. Those citations were written to people who would’ve normally been taken to jail.
“I have nothing against what the city wants to do,” the sheriff said. “The city can do whatever they want to do, but according to Georgia law, I’m bound to do my job, and that’s what we’re gonna do.”
Last year, Savannah Police arrested 29 people over the course of the festival downtown for a variety of reasons, but they didn’t list possession of marijuana.
Sheriff Wilcher says he will be focusing on making sure the jail has plenty of officers manning it this weekend. He anticipates around 300 people from around the county will be booked from Thursday to Sunday - about three times what they normally see.