Monroe forms committee to study options related to decriminalization of marijuana possession

Monroe Mayor John Howard has created a committee to look at options related to decriminalizing the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in the city. This comes on the heels of officially bringing the prosecution of marijuana possession under the city’s ordinances last month.

At that time, City Administrator Logan Propes said that the fine for a violation could be up to a maximum of $1,000. At this week’s City Council work session, Mayor John Howard announced a study committee take a look a decriminalizing marijuana.

Monroe City Administrator Logan Propes said it is really just a study committee for the city’s marijuana ordinances.

“It has not been decided at all what the outcomes would look like,” Propes said. “The committee will look at pros and cons of various municipalities’ ordinances and state laws, and how this may affect the city presently and in the future as laws also change around us.”

This is a move that has been undertaken by several cities and counties in Georgia in recent times, including the city of Atlanta and Clarkston that have instead assigned a nominal fee of $75 and no incarceration and the cities of Savannah and Kingsland that have a fee of $150. Other jurisdictions also have imposed fees varying between $100 and $300 in resolutions decriminalizing the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana.

The study committee would include the mayor as well as council members Norman Garrett, David Dickinson, and Tyler Gregory along with staff input primarily from Monroe Police Chief RV Watts and Propes as well as legal council. Propes said the committee would likely have its first meeting in May. 

Lori Duff, current alternate municipal judge for the City of Monroe and former municipal judge for the City of Loganville said that generally speaking, marijuana cases in the city should be handled in the municipal court as they are in both Loganville and Monroe now.

“That’s one of the concurrent jurisdiction cases that municipal court has,” Duff said. “City ordinances can be passed to cover similar crimes — like there’s a state law disorderly conduct, and also a city ordinance for disorderly conduct. That’s generally ok, but the rule is that there has to be something different in the city ordinance that makes it not just a copy of the state law — that the facts you would use to prosecute the state law are not ‘used up’ when you would then prosecute the city ordinance. This is highly technical and, to be completely honest, doesn’t always happen, but usually no one cares that much because it benefits everyone to have a city ordinance.”

Duff said It’s usually only when the city ordinance gets abused that people start making a stink about it.

“It is hard to imagine how the state law crime of simple possession of marijuana, which only requires you to have it in your possession, wouldn’t ‘use up all the facts’ in any kind of city ordinance. That said, lots of municipalities are doing that so that they can have more control over how marijuana is prosecuted (or not.)”

Duff wrote a column back in the summer of 2019 when the situation changed due to the state passing a law related to hemp farming. At that time it caused difficulty for jurisdictions when it came to processing marijuana possession charges and, at least for a while, several jurisdictions stopped charging for marijuana possession. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation also is no longer testing for small amounts.

Click or tap on the link below to read Duff’s column from August 2019.

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