Athens-Clarke County, Georgia commissioners have approved an ordinance to reduce the fine for cannabis possession of less than an ounce of cannabis to $35 and eliminate any jail time, the Athens Banner-Herald reports. Athens-Clarke County is home to the University of Georgia.
County officials warned, though, that cannabis possession of any amount is still illegal in the state but the ordinance makes the penalty the lowest in the state for cannabis possession.
Commissioners initially sought to levy just a $1 fine but there is a mandatory surcharge from the state which forced them to raise it to $35. The minimum required fine will go to the county law library, the sheriff’s retirement fund, and the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund, the report says.
Commissioner Jesse Houle had previously backed a commission-defined option (CDO) that would get rid of probable cause for cannabis odor, which would have prevented police from searching individuals based on just the odor, but there was not enough support for the CDO to pass so Houle did not introduce the proposal.
“I’d like to see us find a way forward on that, perhaps in the future. Ideally, in the near future. I think there’s more work to be done, to maybe do that in a more thoughtful and even perhaps more effective way.” — Houle to the Banner-Herald
In Georgia, possessing more than an ounce of cannabis is a felony.
Other municipalities, including Atlanta, Savannah, Macon-Bibb, Statesboro, Tybee Island, Clarkston, Chamblee, Forest Park, Kingsland, and South Fulton have also enacted measures to decriminalize cannabis possession, eschewing jail time for fines between $75 to $500.