Savannah Alderman seeks to change marijuana possession penalties

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah could soon follow in the footsteps of Atlanta and cut marijuana possession fines.

Alderman Van Johnson today announced his intention to present the City Council with a proposal which would reduce the penalty for individuals carrying less than one ounce of marijuana.

“It’s not an effort to do anything other than to recognize that certain types of crimes don’t necessarily require arrest records,” Johnson told us.

The current maximum rate is $1,000 and the First District Alderman hopes to reduce it to $150. He also wants to eliminate jail time for individuals possessing small amounts of marijuana and reduce the punishment to a citation.

“This proposal does not minimize the fact that marijuana is still illegal in Georgia and does not decriminalize it, which is not be allowed under the State law,” says Alderman Johnson.

He also believes this would spare many people of arrest records that could impact opportunities for employment, housing or school.

“That one possession – once you have that one arrest record it follows you for the rest of your life. We’re talking about the well being of our community going forward in that young people can’t find employment because of something dumb they did earlier,” he said.

“Further, my proposal would directly address glaring demographic disparities in arrest rates for this offense, due to disproportionate minority contact,” he adds.

Alderman Johnson says this proposal would relieve the courts of marijuana cases and allow police and prosecutors to focus more on violent crime.

Additionally, he proposes that 20% of all fines collected go toward offsetting the cost of drug treatment for anyone seeking it.

City leaders in Atlanta voted October 3 to make possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a ticketing offense, instead of one that would get you arrested.

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