Councilmembers for the “City of Royal Treatment” voted on Monday to pass a local ordinance to regulate marijuana possession penalties, but the ordinance is a relaxed version from most other cities in the state.
Before the unanimous vote, Kingsland had no ordinance regulating the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. The Council voted to have a penalty of $150 if someone is found to be in possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.
The ordinance eliminates jail time as a penalty for a conviction of possession of one ounce or less under the City Code. Possession of any amount of marijuana is still illegal under state law, and penalties can include jail time.
During the public comments period, Pastor James Ham, who is a candidate for Kingsland Mayor, said he wanted the ordinance tabled for more discussion because he felt it would cause a lot of conflict with young people.
“This could be a conflict,” said Ham. Pastor Ham warned the council that a form of marijuana called “spice” is a problem for young people in the schools and parents are struggling to help their children. “We are going to shoot ourselves in the foot if we get too involved with this.”
Ham encouraged the council to reach out to the school system and local juvenile authorities about the consequences of these drugs.
According to drugabuse.gov, “spice” is a mix of herbs (shredded plant material) and manmade chemicals with mind-altering effects. It is often called “synthetic marijuana” or “fake weed” because some of the chemicals in it are similar to ones in marijuana, but its effects are sometimes very different from marijuana, and frequently much stronger.
In many cities around the state, penalties for the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana are stricter. Councilman Mike McClain said the current ordinance that was voted on is similar to those of the city of Atlanta and Savannah, where those cities have reduced their incarceration rates. The city of Atlanta passed their ordinance in 2017 where the maximum fine is $75 for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.
McClain stated that depending on someone’s financial status, current penalties for the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana can cause someone to have trouble finding a job, financially pay for a bond, and stay in jail for an undetermined amount of time.
“It is in Kingsland’s best interest to focus on hard drugs related to violent criminal offenses such as crack, methamphetamine, and heroin,” said McClain. “Those drugs truly ravage communities and families.”
“I do not want to see a young man or woman looking to a bright future to have it squashed by outdated laws criminalizing the possession of a natural flower,” said Councilman Mike McClain.
A portion of the city’s resolution to approve ordinance said the following:
“…the Kingsland City Council to specifically provide that a person convicted of a violation of possession of marijuana shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $150.00, or community service should the Court find financial circumstances so dictate, and shall not be punished by a term of any imprisonment.”
The entire resolution can be found here within the city’s agenda packet.
Below is the actual language of the ordinance that was unanimously passed by the Kingsland City Council:
“It shall be unlawful for any person to possess one ounce or less of marijuana within the corporate limits of the City of Kingsland. Any person found guilty of violating this section shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $150.00. Where the Court finds that a defendant is without the financial means to pay a fine, the Court may direct the defendant to perform community service commensurate with the fine that would otherwise be imposed. In no event shall any person convicted of marijuana possession pursuant to this section be punished by imprisonment for any term. Any defendant charged hereunder with possession of one ounce or less of marijuana shall be entitled on request to have the case against the defendant transferred to the court having general misdemeanor jurisdiction in Camden County.”
State Law reference— Offenses relating to marijuana, O.C.G.A. § 16-13-30 et seq.
Councilman Mike McClain stated that a large majority of incarcerations are for possession for an ounce of marijuana or less with ,many that are placed in jail are black males.
“There is a definite amount of racial profiling with the outdated law,” said McClain. ” We need to be on the right side of history, and I want to do the right thing. We are a small town, but we are not afraid of change when it goes to correctly police our community.”
McClain said the reason drugs are in the schools is due to the black market due to outdated laws. The ordinance does not legalize or decriminalize possession of marijuana. It addresses the disparity in the punishment for possession. Research shows that white and black Americans use marijuana at similar levels, yet black Americans are arrested and charged at higher rates.
“We need to send a signal to the rest of the state of what the conservative south is willing to do,” said McClain.
McClain also commented on Pastor Ham’s “spice” comment and said “spice” is different based on the blends and that is illegal and is a dangerous form of marijuana.
“I want to focus on the main threats in our community,” said Councilman Mike McClain.
For more information about Georgia’s marijuana laws and penalties, please click here.
Video of the meeting – To view and hear the discussion and the vote, start the video at 22:15 minutes in.
Kingsland Council Meeting 6 pm
Posted by All On Georgia – Camden on Monday, September 24, 2018