By Anthony Martinelli

A city council committee in Atlanta has approved a measure that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The ordinance, which would decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of cannabis, was given approval today by the city council’s Public Safety Committee. Under the proposed law possessing less than an ounce of marijuana would carry a maximum fine of $75. Under current law possessing even a gram is punishable by up to six months in jail and/or an $1,000 fine.

“Court costs, the jail time, ruining young peoples lives, they lose their scholarships, it breaks up families, and it wastes our tax dollars. That’s the reason for doing this,” says City Councilmember Kwanza Hall, who’s also a mayoral candidate. Former Senator Vincent Fort, another mayoral candidate, also recently announced his support for decriminalizing marijuana.

“In Atlanta and in Fulton County, 93 percent of the arrests for small amounts of marijuana are the arrests of African-Americans,” Councilmember Hall told local WGCL-TV earlier this month. Hall called this “the most biased rate of arrests in the country.”

The measure will now be sent to a vote by the full city council; if approved, Mayor Kasim Reed will have eight days to sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature. It’s unclear at this point what Reed would do; he’s opposed to legalizing marijuana, calling it a “gateway drug”, but has also said he believes marijuana prohibition is a tool used to discriminate against minorities and the poor

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