MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Macon-Bibb Commissioners voted 5-4 Tuesday to reduce penalties for those possessing small amounts of marijuana.
Those caught with less than an ounce will now receive a $75 fine instead of potential jail time.
The ordinance, proposed by commissioners Al Tillman and Virgil Watkins last month, does not legalize marijuana possession. It only lessens the penalty.
“We are not making marijuana legal in Macon-Bibb County,” Watkins said before the vote. “We are decreasing the harm that may befall you if you are convicted.”
Tillman said Macon is the 10th municipality in the state to pass a similar ordinance.
“In doing the research and talking to so many people, this is probably the first municipality that you had the sheriff’s department, the solicitor general’s office and our district attorney’s office not come out and fight us tooth and nail,” Tillman said. “According to most folks, it’s unusual.”
Commissioners Tillman, Watkins, Bert Bivins, Elaine Lucas and Larry Schlesinger voted in favor of the proposal.
“I just want to make sure that we give good children–children who are guilty of adolescent mischief, or youthful indiscretion–I just want to make sure that we give them the full chance that they have to succeed in this world going forward without being dogged for the rest of their lives by an indiscretion, a mischief act that they will outgrow,” Schlesinger said.
Commissioners Scotty Shepherd, Joe Allen, Mallory Jones and Valerie Wynn voted no.
“I had mentioned rehabilitation and trying to keep children from doing this so they won’t have this on their record as they become older and look for a job,” Wynn said. “This is where we need to focus on: prevention. Not making it easier to do, but making it harder. Making it something that they don’t want to do so that it won’t be on their record when they become an adult.”
“Yeah we do dumb things when we’re kids,” Wynn continued. “But this is something that we can teach our children not to do.”
The previous ordinance said those caught with less than an ounce could receive up to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
A deputy could still choose to make an arrest if he or she believes the marijuana is intended for sale.