Clarkston is the first city in Georgia to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Clarkston is the first city in Georgia to decriminalize marijuana possession. / Flickr

After a unanimous city council vote Tuesday night, the city of Clarkston will no longer arrest people caught with an ounce or less of marijuana. Instead, the policy requires that those caught pay a $75 fine. 

Ted Terry is the Mayor of Clarkston. He said the city is still following the law, but has decided to treat the punishment differently.

“We believe that a six-hundred to a thousand dollar fine for less than one ounce marijuana possession is too much, and so we voted to lower it not a trivial amount. And so we feel that the punishment is still stringent enough, but not punitive to where you would put someone in debt or cause someone to lose their job because of imprisonment for a minor non-violent drug offense,” Terry said.

He explained that this policy will allow the city to spend less time adjudicating and imprisoning people who aren’t causing public safety or health threats to the community.

“What we’re talking about is having our police focus more on the crimes that really matter and that the citizens really want us to tackle. So I think it’ll leave more police time to stop those violent crimes. We don’t want ordinary citizens to feel like they’re being persecuted for these non-violent low-level drug offenses,” he said.

GPB News contacted the Attorney General’s office for a reaction to the policy change. The Attorney General’s office has not yet responded, but a group of prosecutors warned earlier this year that cities in Georgia do not have the authority to decriminalize marijuana.