Georgia senators move forward with pot decriminalization bill - CBS46 News

Georgia senators move forward with pot decriminalization bill

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ATLANTA (AP) -

A group of senators approved legislation that would reduce the punishment for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Monday to move forward with the bill sponsored by Sen. Harold Jones II of Augusta.

Under the proposed legislation, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana will be punishable as a misdemeanor rather than a felony as is currently the case.

Marijuana taking center stage in Georgia

City leaders in Atlanta have discussed whether or not to decriminalize the punishment for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana, a push headed by Atlanta city councilman Kwanza Hall. 

"This has to be an agreement that the chief is going to not prosecute and not push for the officers to use the state law," said Hall, whose proposition seeks to make the punishment for pot a ticket, versus a jail sentence.

Supporters want them to do what the DeKalb County city of Clarkston did last July.

Clarkston became the first city in Georgia to write $75 tickets for marijuana possession.

"It's still against the law, just like running a red light or turning right on red when you shouldn't," said Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry.

Terry recommends the city tack on a marijuana awareness program to the possible fine. He told me that eight months in, community relations with his officers seem to be better.

"Our officers are more focused on stopping violent crimes and patrolling our streets," Terry said.

Hall believes if it passes the committee, the city council could vote on it in early March.

Meanwhile, a bill working its way through the general assembly would allow patients with autism to use medical marijuana in Georgia.

It would also lower THC levels, the chemical that produces a high, from 5 percent to 3 percent for those approved users.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Ben Watson of Savannah, conceded he had no scientific studies to back up the reduction, saying cannabis' classification as an illegal narcotic makes it difficult to study. Instead, a group of pediatricians testified in favor of lower THC.

Despite other amendments proposed, the original bill passed by a senate vote, 41-12.

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