On Tuesday, the city of Atlanta took a major step towards decriminalizing marijuana possession.
The city's Public Safety Panel announced their recommendation that the punishment for minor marijuana possession should change from jail time to a fine. The fine would be around $75. The issue will now move to the Atlanta City Council, who will vote on whether or not to decriminalize marijuana possession during their next regular meeting. If approved by the council, it would then move on to Mayor Kasim Reed, who would need to sign it into law.
The decriminalization effort in Atlanta has raged for a long time. Earlier this year, several members of the City Council expressed their desire to change the law. They noted that 92 percent of people arrested for marijuana possession in the city were black, and continuing the law simply hurt the city's minority population.
Many cities have decriminalized marijuana possession despite state and federal laws against it. In the past year, both Nashville and Pittsburgh have succeeded in reducing punishments for possession charges.
Considering how long it's taken for Atlanta to get to this point, it's no guarantee that the decriminalization effort will succeed. But there's definitely increasing pressure and momentum, so signs look good that the law will change in the not-so-distant future.