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Clarkston May Be The First City In Georgia To Decriminalize Marijuana

clarkston georgia marijuana

(image via Town Maps USA)

There are a lot of municipalities looking into decriminalizing marijuana possession. It would be nice if they were pursuing full legalization, but in a lot parts of America, decriminalization is the logical first step towards reforming marijuana laws. State victories may be unattainable right now for various reasons in certain parts of the country, but local decriminalization is achievable. One city in Georgia is trying to be the first to decriminalize marijuana possession in the state. Per Atlanta Journal Constitution:

The city of Clarkston is pressing ahead with a vote as early as next week to make it the first city in Georgia to decriminalize marijuana despite warnings from Gov. Nathan Deal and law enforcement officials that it would violate state and federal law.

The city held an initial hearing last week on Mayor Ted Terry’s plan to make possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana a ticket-only offense, and the full city council could vote on the policy at its May 3 meeting. Terry, meanwhile, said he’s tried to set up a meeting with Deal to sell him on the idea as part of a criminal justice overhaul that was the centerpiece of his first term in office.

“I think that if he stopped for a minute and looked at the evidence, and past the political rhetoric, he will see that this policy can only strengthen his criminal justice reform legacy,” said Terry.

If Clarkston succeeds in passing a decriminalization measure, it will face an uphill battle if the State of Georgia wants to step in. In 2015 the Wichita, Kansas voted to decriminalize marijuana possession. The Kansas Supreme Court struck down the vote. Georgia is a different state, and therefore wouldn’t need to rely on Kansas’ case law, but I’d imagine the end result would be the same. But anything is possible, and regardless, pursuing reform is still worthwhile. If Clarkston moves forward, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other cities in Georgia move forward. If enough municipalities push for it, it would put pressure on the Georgia Legislature to step up and make some changes.


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Johnny Green


  1. saynotohypocrisy on

    I notice you’ve been doing a lot of good research lately. It’s appreciated.

  2. I see in many states want to decriminalize marijuana .In my opinion they should vote all people ,not only those who smoke marijuana but also non smokers

  3. Glad to know I’m not just rambling. ;-) Sadly, I can’t keep a comment under three paragraphs.

  4. It won’t be so uphill, actually. I can’t say much about Kansas, but Georgia law is on our side. Georgia passed a law in 1983, specified in Title 36 of the GA code: “§ 36-32-6.1 – Jurisdiction in cases involving transactions in drug objects; disposition of fines; transfer of cases.” This part of the Georgia Code regards the right of local municipalities (like Clarkston) to set, implement, and enforce their own laws. Clarkston has jurisdiction to deal with drug possession cases that occur within its boundaries how they see fit. The meat and potatoes of this section are here:

    “36-32-6.1 (a) The municipal court of any municipality shall be granted jurisdiction to try and dispose of cases where a person is charged with transactions in drug related objects in violation of Code Section 16-13-32 if the offense occurred within the corporate limits of such municipality. The jurisdiction of any such court shall be concurrent with the jurisdiction of any other courts within the county having jurisdiction to try and dispose of such cases.”
    “36-32-6.1 (d) Nothing in this Code section shall be construed to give any municipality the right to impose a fine or punish by imprisonment in excess of the limits as set forth in the municipality’s charter.”

    Basically, Clarkston has the right to self-govern. The decriminalization measure would only apply to the local police — state troopers and the GBI could, potentially, still arrest and prosecute cannabis possession, even if the arrest occurs within the city limits. People can request to be transferred to a higher court, but they can’t request to be transferred to a lower court (at least I don’t think so). The point is Clarkston CAN do this. Unless Georgia’s conservative legislature is willing to change the law, and in doing so, backtrack on the principle of “self-governance” they claim to hold sacred in their stump speeches, Clarkston has the legal right to decriminalize within their municipality’s jurisdiction.

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