Alderman Van R. Johnson, II, First District Alderman of the City of Savannah,GA , announced his intention to present to the Savannah City Council, within the next 45 days, draft language to enact an ordinance that will reduce the penalty for individuals carrying less than 1 ounce of marijuana from the current maximum rate of $1,000 to $150. He also proposes eliminating jail time for those individuals and reducing punishment to a citation within Savannah City limits. A similar ordinance was recently passed and signed in Atlanta.
“This proposal does not minimize the fact that marijuana is still illegal in Georgia and does not decriminalize it, which is not allowed under the State law” says Alderman Johnson. He adds “however, I believe that it does spare many young people (and some older people) of the arrest and arrest records that make it difficult to obtain employment, housing or to attend school. Further, my proposal would directly address glaring demographic disparities in arrest rates for this offence, due to disproportionate minority contact. Additionally, I believe that this ordinance will relieve our criminal justice system and courts of these types of cases, allowing police, prosecutors and courts to focus on and address violent crime more efficiently.”
He also proposed that that 20% of the fines collected be earmarked to offset the cost of drug treatment for those who want to seek it.
Alderman Johnson has sought input from the Savannah City Manager, City Attorney, Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Chief and the District Attorney of the Eastern Judicial Circuit to offer input prior to his presentation before Council. The Savannah community will be afforded at that time to consider the proposal and make their thoughts known to the members of the Savannah City Council.