Atlanta mayor, City Council send mixed messages on future of marijuana legislation

Atlanta City Council announced Wednesday morning Mayor Kasim Reed vetoed legislation that would remove jail time as a punishment for marijuana possession for less than one ounce.

But the account quickly recalled the tweet with a correction that Reed did not veto the bill.

Earlier Wednesday morning, City Council said they received a notice overnight in an email that Reed had decided to veto the bill.

The tweet finishes with, “More to come.”

However, Reed responded just before 7 a.m. on Twitter saying “Do you all actually believe this?” in response to news reports of the veto and called the City Council tweet a political stunt.

The new legislation would reduce the financial penalty for possession of one ounce or less from up to $1,000 to a maximum of $75. Jail time, currently six months for possession, would be eliminated for an ounce or less.

"In Atlanta and in Fulton County, 93 percent of the arrests for small amounts of marijuana are the arrests of African-Americans, that is the most biased rate of arrests in the country," city councilman Kwanza Hall told CBS46 News. "It's not easy to convince a majority of 8 to 10 people and ideally a majority to agree to do something."

The Public Safety Committee voted the proposal down 10-4 in April. Members said at the time they hadn’t had enough opportunity to discuss it with Mayor Kasim Reed’s administrative team, the Atlanta Business Journal reported.

"We went on recess, then a bridge collapsed," council President Ceasar Mitchell told the Atlanta Business Journal. "We have all these issues that have taken up the administration's attention."

Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms said the ordinance could still be confusing for other state officers, like the Georgia State Patrol and police departments from Atlanta’s colleges and universities, according to the Atlanta Business Journal.

"It's still a crime under state statutes," Bottoms said. "You can still be stopped and arrested."

Reed was expected to sign the legislation into city law, tweeting “I look forward to reviewing and signing the legislation.”

Check back with the Ledger-Enquirer for an update on this story.

Lauren Gorla: 706-571-8647, @gorla94

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