Marijuana is an interesting subject and has been fascinating to watch evolve in regards to public opinion. Currently, 67% of the US population approve of making recreational marijuana legal while 32% oppose. The percentage of people who believe it should be legal for medical reasons is 92% compared to 8% opposed. HERE is the link to Pew Research center’s long term polling. This polling breaks the data down into things like age and party affiliation. HERE is another poll from Gallup showing very similar results. This chart shows Pew’s trend lines going back to 1969:
I am writing this post because I am curious how some of you feel about our city’s marijuana policy. Currently, our city charter says possession of less than an ounce can result in up to $1,000 fine and 60 days in jail. I have copied the code section regarding Marijuana in green and our code section dealing with penalties in orange/blue. I know that $1,000 and 2 months in jail would have a significant impact on most people I know. The question is if this is too much of a punishment, not enough, or just right.
(b) Jurisdiction of municipal court.
(1)Where a person is charged with the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana within the corporate limits of the city, the municipal court has jurisdiction, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 36-32-6 to try and dispose of such cases.
(d)Penalties. Unless another penalty is expressly provided by law, every person convicted of a violation of this section shall be punished as provided in section 1-11; however, the total length of sentence for imprisonment and total length of public service work shall not exceed one year.
(a)Whenever in this Code or in any ordinance of the city any act is prohibited or is made or declared to be unlawful or an offense, or whenever in this Code or any ordinance the doing of any act is required and the failure to do such act is declared to be unlawful, and no specific penalty is provided; and unless otherwise provided by state law, the violation of any such provision of this Code or any such ordinance shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000.00 and imprisonment in the city prison or in the county jail and work and labor on the streets or public works of the city, whether within or without the corporate limits, not exceeding 60 days, or both a fine and sentence of imprisonment and labor; and all sentences may be in the alternative and fines may be imposed with the alternative of sentence to imprisonment and labor if the fines are not paid. Each day any violation of this Code or of any ordinance shall continue shall constitute a separate offense.
Anytime I write something like this, I feel like I need to include a disclaimer. Recently, one of our councilmen put an item on our agenda about requiring drug testing for our elected officials. Apparently, there are legal issues involved with putting that into our charter, but nothing is stopping elected officials from doing that voluntarily. I went the day after it was on our agenda and took one just like any other city employee. I have no problem continuing to do that while I hold this position. I know that some will try to label anyone who even brings this up for discussion as a pot head, and it would be nice to have a meaningful conversation without innuendo or false accusations.
While our community is more conservative and Republican than most areas of the country, 55% of Republicans support complete legalization and a full 88% of Republicans support legalization for medical purposes. That makes me wonder if our current policy still reflects our citizens’ views on proper punishment for low level marijuana cases. This post is not to argue for or against marijuana legalization. It is meant to inquire about public sentiment regarding penalties laid out in our city charter for these crimes.