The Gist: Add Fulton County to the growing list of local governments who are relaxing their laws about possessing small amounts of marijuana. Under the new policy, those caught with less than one ounce of the drug would face no jail time and a maximum fine of $75 for a first offense.
What about subsequent offenses?: Penalties for additional arrests for misdemeanor possession of marijuana would increase with each additional arrest. Subsequent offenses would have a mandatory minimum fine of $150 for a second offense, $300 for a third offense, $450 for a fourth offense, and for all subsequent offenses, a mandatory minimum fine of $500 and may include up to 60 days in jail.
What local leaders are saying about it: “With all of the issues facing young people in our county, the prospect of their futures being forever damaged by one mistake is something we should avoid. This will allow law enforcement to use their time to focus on more serious crimes that keep our citizens safe. The City of Atlanta and other jurisdictions have taken similar steps, and we believe others should follow this example too.” – District 4 Fulton County Commissioner Natalie Hall
What if you’re under 21?: If you aren’t above the drinking age, you’re not going to get off the hook as easily for having marijuana. Offenders under the age of 21 will be required to appear in court and may be ordered to drug treatment. Violators who are 21 or older must appear in court after a third offense and may be ordered into drug treatment.
The Catch: The new ordinance is a mostly symbolic gesture, as it only applies to unincorporated Fulton County, which has been shrinking due to new cities and annexations. All that remains of unincorporated Fulton County right now is the Fulton Industrial District, so the reach of the relaxed laws are limited.