Many 'unknowns' concerning Atlanta's new marijuana law

Many 'unknowns' concerning Atlanta's new marijuana law
First offenders caught with less than an ounce of weed will get a fine, not jail time within Atlanta city limits. (Source: WALB)
Criminal Law Professor and Author J Tom Morgan said there are many 'unknowns" with new City of Atlanta municipal ordinance. (Source: J Tom Morgan)
Criminal Law Professor and Author J Tom Morgan said there are many 'unknowns" with new City of Atlanta municipal ordinance. (Source: J Tom Morgan)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - As a brand new marijuana ordinance takes effect in our state's capital city, reducing the possession penalty to a small fine and no jail time within city limits, legal experts warn there are many gray areas.

One of the state's leading experts on criminal law and youth, J Tom Morgan, said marijuana is the "drug of choice for the millennial generation."

"And, it is very frustrating that I have seen kids whose lives have been ruined, their futures railroaded, because of a conviction for less than an ounce of marijuana," said Morgan, an Albany native who is the former Dekalb County District Attorney and now teaches criminal law at Western North Carolina University.

The author of 'Ignorance is No Defense, a Teenager's Guide to Georgia Law', Morgan said the new Atlanta marijuana ordinance itself is clear.

"It decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to a $75 fine, no criminal conviction, no jail time, no community service, so, it is even less than a speeding ticket," said Morgan.

What's not clear is what happens when a law enforcement officer other than a City of Atlanta cop finds a person carrying less than an ounce of weed.

"It certainly wouldn't be fair if a state trooper sends you to State Court and you have a criminal conviction and the City of Atlanta police officer sends you to City of Atlanta Court, and you don't have a criminal conviction. There are a lot of unknowns," said Morgan.

Another unknown is what happens when a person is found with pot on a college campus.

"You have to understand that campus police at schools like Georgia Tech and Georgia State, they work for the State of Georgia, not the City of Atlanta. In the City of Atlanta, you do have a lot of state officials, police officers, in addition to the City of Atlanta police. How those state officers are going to treat those cases are yet to be determined," said Morgan.

Morgan said even with the new municipal ordinance, the City of Atlanta police still has the discretion to arrest an individual on a state charge.

Morgan also said "an individual caught carrying less than an ounce of marijuana, cannot have other charges, for example, obstruction of justice. So, a teenager cannot run from police and not expect to be taken into custody."

It is illegal to smoke marijuana and operate a vehicle. People will be charged with Driving Under the Influence of Drugs.

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