Political Insider

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Clarkston mayor: ‘I am happy to report we are not a drug haven’

Six months after Clarkston lawmakers approved the most liberal marijuana ordinance in the state, the DeKalb County city reports it is on pace to have a decline in marijuana-related violations.

The city has logged 23 citations for marijuana use since the June passage of the new ordinance, which reduces the fine for possessing less than an ounce of the drug from $1,000 to $75 and eliminates the possibility of jail time for breaking municipal law.

Clarkston typically averages about 70 of those types of marijuana violations each year, said Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, who said the slower pace of violations this year was evidence the new policy was working.

“I am happy to report we are not a drug haven,” he said.

Clarkston, a city of about 13,000 with a long progressive streak, didn’t legalize the drug. But Terry said the new ordinance essentially decriminalized possession of small amounts, ensuring that it wouldn’t “ruin someone’s life or drain their bank account.”

Gov. Nathan Deal and law enforcement officials have warned the city’s new rules would violate state and federal law, and officers have stressed they still have discretion to charge someone if they are violating state law.

Other Georgia cities have flirted with the idea, but they’ve failed to gain traction. An effort in Athens sputtered recently when the city attorney concluded that state laws that make possession of the drug a misdemeanor crime take precedence over local ordinances.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.