Appeals to Leaders of Black Lives Matter Movement, Civil Rights and Social Justice Groups to Unite with ATL Film, Hip-Hop and Arts Community to Help Pass Groundbreaking Measure
Atlanta City Councilmember Kwanza Hall is working to build city-wide support for passage of legislation he introduced March 20 that would dramatically reduce the penalty for marijuana possession and make it a non-arrestable offense. Hall will hold a Marijuana “Meet-Up” today in front of the Atlanta City Detention Center to build support for the Monday, October 2 vote on ordinance 17-O-1152. He has asked for leaders of Atlanta’s civil rights and social justice movements and arts community to unite and actively campaign for passage of the ordinance.
“It’s unconscionable,” said Hall. “If the experts tell us that people of all colors here in Atlanta use marijuana at the same rates, then why are more than 90% of those locked up for possession of it black?” asked Hall. “This is about putting an end to racially biased policing and making sure our young people are not unfairly being targeted and penalized.
“I’m asking for the support of the community, from your next door neighbors to members of the music and film community to join forces with civil rights and social justice organizations to help un-rig the system,” said Hall. “Use social media, talk with your friends, make calls to City Hall to spread the word and rally for support…too many kids of color are being locked behind bars, losing college scholarships and getting a criminal record for nothing more than possessing a small amount of marijuana.”
Hall’s ordinance would change the penalty in the Atlanta municipal code for possession of marijuana less than an ounce from the “general penalty”— a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail–to a maximum fine of $75 and no jail time.
This legislation is one in a series of justice reform policies that Councilman Hall has introduced over the years, including: “Ban the Box” which passed in 2014; creation of the Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative Pilot Program in 2015; and, in 2016, a law enforcement transparency and accountability measure and legislation to end broken windows policing. The marijuana legislation was pulled from the broken windows policy as a stand-alone piece of legislation.
The Atlanta City Council’s Public Safety and Legal Affairs Committee debated the legislation at several committee meetings and held a work session on the topic. On Tuesday, September 26, the committee moved the legislation forward to the full council with a favorable recommendation. A key fact presented during the debate is that in Atlanta, the overwhelming number of people arrested for marijuana-related offenses are African Americans (92%), even though studies have determined that usage is at similar levels across racial demographics.
Councilman Hall has invited his colleagues to stand with him and is calling all supporters together to make one more push for support in advance of the Full Council’s vote on Monday, October 2.